Beca glanced around the empty bar, waiting patiently for everyone to show up. Her stomach turned with nervous anticipation, unsure how they would take the news she was about to tell them. She didn't regret her decision but knew her parents would most likely have strong opinions about it and would not hold back their thoughts.
The door swung open and she was relieved to see the first to arrive was her stepbrother Jake, followed immediately by his younger brother Noah. Jake was a year younger than Beca at twenty-three, and Noah was two years behind him having turned twenty-one not long ago. Jake frequented the bar when he was in town, but Noah was still in college across the country and had only been inside Charlie's a handful of times.
"Little Bec!" Jake greeted her enthusiastically, striding forward and wrapping her in a warm hug.
Beca rolled her eyes but hugged him back. One he released her she bumped her fist with Noah, who had always been less affectionate than his older brother. Her relationship with the boys was rocky at the start, but her dad and Sheila had been married for over ten years now and all those tensions of blending families were long gone.
Noah glanced around the bar, asking, "How's this place doing? It still looks the same as I remember."
Beca shrugged, "Fine. Business has been good lately."
Jake perched himself on a barstool and shot her a look. "So, what's this all about anyways?"
"You'll see. I'm not explaining myself a million times, so wait for everyone else to get here."
Noah grabbed a seat beside his brother, asking, "Who else is coming for this big announcement?"
Beca answered, "My mom and Rob and the parents."
They both nodded, recognizing their shared term for Ben and Sheila. As if speaking them into existence, the four adults strolled casually into the bar moments later.
"Bec, honey, what's going on?"
Beca sighed, knowing her mom wouldn't wait to demand an explanation for her strange request for the family to all get together.
Her father remained closer to the entrance of the bar, never feeling quite comfortable in the place. Sheila had no such issues, moving forward to give her sons hugs.
"Andrea, I'm sure Beca will explain why she's gathered us all here together like the big happy family we aren't," Ben said with a small smile, his expression and tone making it clear he wasn't being serious with the jab.
Andrea rolled her eyes at him, not bothering with a response as she moved slowly in a circle looking around the bar.
"The place looks good, Bec," she said fondly. "Charlie would be proud of how you've filled his shoes," she added, moving to hug her daughter.
Beca bit her lip at the mention of her uncle. The first anniversary of his passing hit her hard last month, still missing his easy-going smile and the late nights they'd spent in the bar shooting darts talking about anything and everything. She swallowed hard and pulled back, the last thing she wanted was to have this conversation fighting back tears.
Clearing her throat, she said, "So uh, I asked everyone to be here today because it's one of the only chances for us all to get together before mom and Rob leave for Africa again… and I have news."
Everyone fell silent, looking at her curiously.
Beca took a deep breath and let it out slowly, steeling herself for the reactions. "So, I did a thing… um…"
Jake rolled his eyes, "Spit it out already. We're family, whatever it is, it'll be fine."
Beca cracked a smile. "Right, okay… I auditioned to be on this MTV show called Are You The One and they accepted me. So… I'm gonna be on tv."
A lot of frowns and confused looks morphed in front of her except for Noah, who started laughing. Sheila glanced at her youngest son while Ben's eyebrows creased more the longer he processed the news.
Andrea glanced at Ben and then back at Beca. "Honey, I have no idea what that is."
Realization dawned over Jake, who had been deep in thought ever since Beca named the show. "Wait a second… is that the show where you get matched up or something?"
Beca nodded, "Yeah, sort of. There's about twenty of us and we are all in this house together and someone there will be my "perfect match." She made finger quotations around the final words. "It's basically a dating show, and if by the end we all figure out who our match is we win a million bucks."
The expressions before her were changing drastically and it was taking all her self control not to laugh at the horror on her father's face. Sheila was smiling, seeming to like the idea for whatever reason, while her mother and Rob were clearly having a silent conversation between themselves. Noah was now cheering and voicing his approval, making her own smile spread across her face.
"Beca, I don't think this is a good idea at all," Ben protested. "MTV… that network is trash. Why would you do this?"
"It sounds fun," Beca replied. "I haven't had much of that lately."
"You own a bar for God's sake," Ben retorted, running his fingers through his hair. "How much more fun could you need?"
Andrea came to her defense, "Exactly, Ben. She OWNS the bar. It's work for her, not fun."
Jake mumbled, "I dunno about that… I've seen her have a lot of fun around here…"
Beca smacked his shoulder, her eyes warning her brother to shut up.
Noah finally found his voice, interjecting, "That show is crazy! They do all these crazy challenges and drink…" he trailed off at the look Ben was giving him. "And find their true love or something. It's cool."
Ben looked at Andrea, almost begging, "Andrea, please. Talk some sense into your daughter."
Andrea brushed him off, "Ben, it's Beca's life. It's her decision to go on a stupid reality show, but honestly I don't see a ton of harm in it. She'll go to this house and meet a bunch of people her own age and maybe even end up falling in love."
Beca raised her eyebrows at her mom, still having doubts. "Seriously?"
Her mom nodded, moving over to wrap her in another brief hug. "Bec, I might not always agree with your choices, but I will always support you."
"Do you agree with this choice?"
Andrea hesitated, finally admitting, "No, not really. I don't see the point of putting yourself and your life out there on some show for the entire world to see, but that's just me. If this is really something you want, then I support you."
Beca knew that was about as good as she was gonna get. "Thanks mom," she said, her gaze flickering over to Rob.
Andrea had met Robert Stevens through her work with Doctors Without Borders, and the two quickly built a close friendship. When the travel had become too much for her parents' marriage, Rob was there for her and eventually the two began to date. They were married shortly after and continued to spend most of their time traveling the world to provide medical aid to places in need. The result of that was Beca spending quite a bit of time with her dad, and then Sheila, Jake, and Noah when they entered the picture, however she and Rob got along famously, and she respected the man and his opinions.
"What do you think, Rob?"
Rob returned her shrug. "Bec, I think your twenties are for adventures and figuring shit out. Sounds to me like a pretty great adventure."
Andrea smiled and moved to her husband's side, his arm automatically slipping around her waist. "Well said."
Ben threw his hands up, searching the room for an ally. "Sheila don't tell me you're with them on this…" he trailed off at the skeptical look on his wife's face.
"Ben, it seems pretty harmless to me," Sheila finally answered. "Beca's an adult."
"I'd rather not know," Ben sighed, his head snapping up to look at Beca. "Why did you tell us?"
Beca nodded at the question. "I had to tell you because the producers and matchmakers and whoever else from the show is gonna want to talk to you and interview you about me. I haven't really been great at relationships, so they're gonna talk to a lot of people… not just me… about what they or you think the problems are. I don't really know the details, but something like that. So, I didn't want you to get ambushed."
"How considerate," Ben quipped, still looking unhappy about the entire situation. "Okay, will you explain this whole show one more time? Please?"
Beca nodded, knowing her dad needed to understand exactly what was going to happen. "Sure Dad. I'll go to a house with nineteen other single people who are also bad at relationships but want to find love. There will be ten guys and ten girls, and one of those ten guys will be my perfect match. The idea is to figure out who my perfect match is, and everyone else will be doing the same thing… trying to find their match. We talk and get to know each other and build relationships… and I guess friendships too. There are other minor things that happen, but that's the basics of it, and if we all figure out who our perfect match is we win a million dollars."
Ben's forehead crease had returned. "So, you each win a million if you find all the matches?"
Beca shook her head. "No, we split the money."
Noah nodded, chiming in, "Yeah that's such bullshit. That's only fifty grand each."
Sheila raised an eyebrow at his words. "Wait, is that true? You split the million?"
"Yeah, but it's not really like I'm in it for the money anyways," Beca responded. "I've got everything I need here at the bar, it's more for the experience and I guess a shot at finding my perfect match. I mean, I'm pretty doubtful but you never know."
Andrea asked curiously, "Who is looking after the bar while you're gone?"
"Hank." Beca was grateful to have the man on her team. He was logical and organized and an excellent manager. She knew he would keep the staff in line while she was gone. "He knows the bar almost as well as I do. Besides, it's only for a few months."
The room fell silent for a moment, making Beca think they were about all out questions until Jake spoke up curiously.
"Where are you going?"
Beca grinned, knowing that one piece of information.