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Authors: Leah Banicki

Runner Up

BOOK: Runner Up
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RUNNER UP
by Leah Banicki
Copyright © 2012 Leah Banicki

 

Cover art- © HadKub- Girl © Tryfonov - lens

 

Published by Leah Banicki

 

https://www.facebook.com/Leah.Banicki.Novelist

All rights reserved solely by the author. The author guarantees all contents are original and do not infringe
upon the legal rights of any other person or work. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without
the permission of the author.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is
purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work.
* * *
Leah Banicki writes with a quirky sense of humor while underneath lie stories of
real-life relationships. Her portrayals will make you laugh out loud, feel the hurt and
experience the triumphs that are common to us all. Ms. Banicki is one author I will
read again and again.
– Patricia Strefling - Author of Ireland Rose & Wedgewick
Woman
Special Thanks:

To my Mom, for helping me with the TV show brainstorming and telling me from day one what a great
idea this was. It was a huge undertaking for me and without you it would have sat in the unfinished pile forever.
To my dear friend Pat, you has cheered me through the journey with your sweet way of lifting me out of
the pit of insecurity. You made it so easy for me to keep going with your prayers and kind words. Our friendship
blesses me everyday.
To my other Patty, your amazing gifts helped me polish my work. I appreciate all your guidance and
humorous comments kept me giggling through my edits.
To my daughter Emma, your optimism and giving spirit kept me writing. You always kept telling me that
the world needs this story. Somehow, you just made me believe it too.
My husband Jeff, who put up with the long hours, the teary hard scenes that made me emotional, the
endless questions... “Would a guy actually say that?” “Is that funny or silly?” You never, ever, stopped believing in
me. I will never forget that. You are my soul mate!

Table of Contents
Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Dear Reader
Resources
Part 1

 

Prologue

I was a late bloomer, a shy teen that didn’t have a clue how to flirt or get attention. When I did get
attention, I didn’t have any idea what to do with it. I was days away from my seventeenth birthday when I got my
first kiss and honestly, it went badly. Found out a week later that he had a girlfriend. What a jerk! I can look back
now and laugh, but I didn’t then.

I have had a romantic heart since I was little; I have loved sentimental stories and amorous movies to
distraction. My favorite new thing to do once I moved to New York was go to Central Park on weeknights, just
about dusk, to photograph couples walking together. You would be surprised what I observed from my park
bench, steadily feeding my pigeons as I watched each couple strolling by.

I especially loved the older couples. Watching the gentleman link the lady's hand in the cusp of his elbow; it
made my heart sing a little. Their love had endured throughout the years, long after beauty and youth had betrayed
them.

I became a nervous wreck and felt a bit foolish recently when I signed up for a romantic adventure. At
twenty-five years of age and seemingly hopeless at dating, and after a lot of convincing from my family, I applied to
be a contestant on the television show
Soulmate
, a Reality TV program that allows people to see if they can fall in
love over a few months on television. It was a wildly popular program, not only in the U.S. but also several
versions now made in Canada, France, and several other countries. The U.S. version of the show usually had
twenty-five contestants all vying for the attention of the man or woman chosen by the show’s producer.

The season of
Soulmate
I was applying for includes a man who was a contestant on last year’s show. He
was a runner up who made it to the top three before he was sent home. I was surprised the bachelorette from
that season was so foolish to let him go. He was a definite catch.

My family avidly watched the show every season, myself included. It seemed too good to be true, a person
finding their one love, to have and to hold, on national television. I enjoyed watching each story evolve right before
my eyes. It was captivating. Every season the TV producers chose an eligible Bachelor or Bachelorette to select
from an intimate group of viable singles that were competing for love and attention. Each week the
Soulmate
chose
one or two of the contenders to go on a special date, and the dates are from a dream... helicopter rides
overlooking waterfalls, dinners in Paris, or yachting in the bluest of oceans. Who couldn't fall in love in a setting
like that. Heck, by the time the season was over, I would be half in love with the bachelor myself, just having
watched him from my couch at home. The real twist was when the
Soulmate
had to choose, at the end of the
season, who they wanted to be with. It always came down to two contestants, that was when I thought the
pressure must really be incredible. I had to admit, the last show every season was always a nail biter for me.

I could never tell which one they were going to choose, but it sure was exciting. Most of the time there
was even a proposal of marriage...
Can you imagine?
What a whirlwind. Then the couple exits the show hand in
hand. I could never get enough of them, it seemed. I never missed any after-shows or follow-up interviews. I had to
know just how it all worked out for them;
Soulmate
fans want to know more.

This season it would be Anthony Cappricio as the
Soulmate
bachelor. I first saw Anthony last season when
he was let go from the show in the top three guys. The world fell in love with him, being such a sweet Christian
man with integrity and morals. It also helped that he was remarkably handsome and a successful architect.

His black hair, dark eyes, and easy smile made me take notice when my family heard that they chose him
for the next
Soulmate
show. They begged me to go for it. They thought it would be good for me to come out of
my shell, since I focused way too much on my career and travel.

Currently I work as a freelance professional photographer and have made a name for myself as being
creative and easy to work with. A few years of business school helped me learn how to market myself but mostly I
learned everything that I needed to know from my Dad’s business savvy. You pick up a lot of wisdom with an
entrepreneur as a father.

My first photo appeared in a magazine when I was eighteen. I really got lucky but my mom called it a
blessing. The winter snows melted and our town flooded. With some borrowed fishing waders along with several
panicked prayers that I didn’t drop my expensive camera in the floodwaters, I maneuvered through the immersed
streets. To my delight, I captured some amazing urban scenes that were submerged two feet deep in water. The
mid-morning light was perfect for some magical moments. I sent the pictures to several magazines and received a
bid to buy one of the photos. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. That was seven years ago...now my
family has decided that I need to focus on my personal life since my professional life was going well. Plus I realized
that they might just have a point.

Reluctantly, I agreed to try out for the show; it was quite an ordeal. First I did a photo shoot, which was
understandably awkward since I was the one usually taking the pictures, then filled out endless pages of
applications, only to nervously wait for my results. I thought the worst part of the ordeal was my family calling daily
to ask if I heard anything from the network producers.

I finally got a phone call.

 

"Is this Hannah Parker?" I answered yes, while my heart nearly jumped from my chest.

The producer wanted to discuss my application. He asked me a lot of personal questions about my past
relationships, as well, as any criminal history. He told me that to be considered as a candidate they would have to
interview my family and friends as well. Apparently they do a complete personal and criminal screening; I guess
with their ratings at stake they are not willing to leave anything to chance. After talking at length about why I
wanted to be on the show and what my expectations were, I am told about what they expect from me. I needed
to lose fifteen pounds and get a tan before going on the show. He even had the nerve to suggest the option of
‘breast augmentation’. A boob job, weight loss, and bronzed skin? I was a size six now with a healthy woman's
figure. My jaw dropped a little as he said it so bluntly and part of me was a little bit peeved!

Not gonna happen, well the breast augmentation anyway
.
A tan and a workout trainer I would accept gracefully.
He continued to give me the name of a personal trainer that lived nearby, as well as several plastic
surgeons that I would want to consult. He told me that the show would pay for any procedures, at no charge to
me, if they liked the end result enough to choose me for the show. I had to work hard not to tell him off
right there. I was able to hold myself together long enough to write down the information as he gave it to me over
the phone. He promised to email me the
Soulmate
information packet for applicants shortly, he told me he was my
personal contact, and then opened the floor to any questions I may have. I wanted to ask him if they required a vile
of my blood or a lock of my hair for DNA purposes, but I thought better of it. The very thought of it at least made
me smile long enough to calm down a bit.
This jerk was quite a piece of work,
I told myself.
“How many girls are getting this call?” I asked, wondering about the other women crazy enough to do
this.
“Around forty, plus or minus a few. It will be cut to twenty-five by the first show to be taped in five
months. Your cooperation is what gets you into consideration. I just want to tell you, Hannah, the producers of
the show really like you. They see that you are good and wholesome; plus the camera loves you, too. I will give
you a hint, you have a good shot at getting on the show. We can use your story, you know fluff it up little, maybe
add some tears and drama. Hey Hannah, babe, you don't happen to have a sick dog or crippled sister do you? If
not we can work around it. Anyway, I got off track there for a minute... The bachelor, Anthony, is looking for a
woman with values. I think you could make us look really good." His concerns over certain things were annoying
me but I kept my mind open. These TV people had their own way of doing things.
I opened my laptop after the call ended and downloaded the information he sent to my email account. His
screen name was [email protected]. I had to laugh. This was a whole new world that I would be throwing
myself into, with people that I was not even sure if I liked. I needed to decide if this was the correct path for me. I
realized that I wanted to seek some guidance, so I decided to spend some time in prayer about the situation. I sat
in the quiet room and talked to God. I wholeheartedly asked for the Lord to give me peace about what to do.
In my head I was pretty sure Andrew, the next bachelor, was a good Christian man, he professed on
Soulmate
the year before, as being a man of integrity and planned on waiting to have sex until marriage.
What guy
would say that on national television if he didn’t mean it?
I can imagine the press he got and the ribbings from his male
friends.
I would be seeking out some heavenly wisdom in my heart-to-heart talks with God to help me find clarity.
That night I talked to my roommate Allison and listened to her words of wisdom.
“They want you to lose weight? What a bunch of egomaniacal materialistic dunderheads!” Allison said
snidely. I enjoyed how Allison was always free with her opinions. Her streaked blond hair swung as she spoke
animatedly with her hands.
“It’s a television show Allison, not Sunday school.” I said and laughed at her antics but wanted her to be
serious a moment. “I guess I should have accepted that there would be a few catches. As it is, I have to sign a
contract and agree to do all the interviews, allow them a criminal background check and to talk to my family. They
figure if I get to be on TV I am supposed to look good and be perfect in every way.”
“Well, I think you are beautiful and perfect already. They are idiots if they want you to lose all your
curves.” Allison said and gave the international hand gesture for a curvy woman.
“Losing fifteen pounds wouldn’t do my curves any harm. I walk a lot but a trainer might just whip me into
shape. Maybe after the show is done, me and my new man can honeymoon someplace extraordinary that I can
photograph, I am only a so-so hiker. This will get my booty in gear.” I announced and patted myself on the body
part I mentioned, I laughed at the thought of actually winning the show. It was pretty ridiculous.
But someone has to
win, why can't it be me?
I thought to myself.
“His name is Anthony right. What’s his last name?” Allison asked.
“Let me think, Capriccio… It sounds Italian. Hmmm.” I answered and could see the man in my mind’s eye.
Scenes from the show last year danced in my head. Like sugarplums for a child at Christmas time.
“Hannah Capriccio, that would work.” Allison made the –eechio- sound from his last name a bit
exaggerated.
“Let’s go Google him.” She said after I did a minute of day-dreaming.
We jumped off the couch and spent the next hour online looking at every picture of him since the show
aired last year. I was surprised at how many articles about him there were, of course many of them are salacious
gossip, but still, there were quite a few. I wasn't the only one Googling Anthony either, apparently his site has
millions of hits. It amazed me that so many people still cared about the fellow contestant of
Soulmate
that didn't
even make it to the top two. At least there was plenty of information to be gleaned all over the internet.
* * *
Allison and I always walked together in the early Sunday crowds near the church we attended. There was a
great breakfast joint that we liked to frequent, they served the best warm croissants with coffee for a small little
diner. It woke us up fully before church to have that little ritual.
At church I was distracted, my mind kept wandering to thoughts about the show. I could actually see
myself being the winner, walking away with some Hollywood engagement ring to the theme song of the
Soulmate
.
We could even tell our children someday how we met. Sitting in my velvet covered pew daydreaming of a
glamorous life, I realized that I was really considering doing this. My heart began to beat faster while my stomach
lurched from the excitement of the unknown. The smile on my face let me know that I was doing the right thing.
After church I called my parents. They lived in Granger, Indiana and I called them at least once every week.
I read over the TV show contract and wanted to tell them about the details.
“Well, have you prayed about it?” Mom always went straight to the point.
"Yes and I don’t have any alarm bells going off. I am attracted to the guy from what I saw of him on the
show last year, if we hit it off, it works. Otherwise it will be an interesting adventure. Perhaps I’ll get to do some
traveling before I get dumped." I said. I heard them both laugh. They always used the speakerphone. I never knew
who all was listening in until I heard other voices chime into my conversations with them.
"You should think positive. He may be the one God meant for you." My mom wanted me to go, I could
tell. She tried not to pressure my decision, though, well not too much.
"What do you think Dad?" I heard him harrumph in the background.
"I want you to be happy," he said then added. "And married. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I believe a
good marriage is a gift."
“I love you guys, I will let you know what I decide.” I ended the phone call and spent a little time on a
journal. Sometimes I could write things down that I could not say out loud.
Pros for going: Meeting my potential spouse, meeting great new people, traveling, dressing up, being on
TV,
Cons for going: trainer, getting dumped on TV, catty women roommates, looking like a fool.
I looked over my pros and cons list and realized it was lame. The pros list was me thinking positively, the
way I was raised. I suddenly had that sensation in my stomach, that little flip of excitement. This could be an
adventure of a lifetime. I would say yes!
Two weeks passed by and the phone call came. They welcomed me as a contestant on the TV show
Soulmate
.

BOOK: Runner Up
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