Love in a Small Town

Desiree - March 14, 2023

She was just a small-town girl, living in a small-town world, and the one thing Minnie wanted more than anything was to get out. Like her ancestors before her, they strived to get out of this dinky little town but failed to do so. It was a process that had been repeated again and again and again.

After high school, Minnie had every intention of leaving down and going to college. Then her father got sick, forcing Minnie to get a job and help with the bills. This was a decade ago, and she still was working a crappy job at a café.

Minnie tried to live as frugally as she could, shopping at thrift stores and cutting her own curly, dark brown hair anytime it grew past her chin.

It was a shitty job filled with shitty townies and equally shitty coworkers. The one that was the bane of her existence was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man who went by the name of Arthur. He was around her age and had moved to the small town two years ago for a fresh start after a divorce.

They had clashed from the moment they started working together and even after two years, they still got under each other’s skin. The problem was that they got off on the wrong foot. Minnie tended to hold grudges, so every time Arthur tried to make amends, she rebuffed him. Eventually, he grew frustrated and angry with her, which led to their current situation.

Today was no different. The two of them had a spat just earlier that morning, setting Minnie off. Now she was counting down the minutes to her lunch break, which she desperately needed.

“Damn it, finally,” Minnie hissed when the clock struck 12:15. “Guys, I’m going on break. Don’t bother me unless the shop is on fire… actually, never mind. Just don’t call or text me.”

Arthur rolled his eyes. “Charming as always.”

She flipped Arthur off as she left the café, not even bothering to turn around. Minnie walked across the street, which was a small park area. It was where she usually liked to eat her lunch. During this time of year, it was especially nice, so it was best to take advantage of it before the weather turned crappy.

The rest of her lunch and day went as it always did. Minnie was minutes from clocking out on her shift when one of her coworkers, Dani, burst through the door. It was strange to see her because she wasn’t supposed to be working today. She shouldn’t have been here until the end of the week.

“Dani, why are you here?”

She had been working there for about a year and was only around twenty. Her father was also on the city council, so she was well-known around town.

“Because I just overheard some outstanding news when my dad was on the phone,” she rasped out. “I was so excited I ran over here without stopping.”

“… why didn’t you just text us?” Arthur asked.

Dani huffed. “Look I don’t know, okay. Do you guys want to hear my outstanding news or what?”

“Fine, lay it on us,” Minnie muttered.

What Dani explained next was one of the weirdest things Minnie had ever heard. Her father had convinced the mayor to nominate the town for the reality show: Love in a Small Town. It was a reality show that would hold auditions in a bunch of small towns. Their goal was to find strong couples in these small towns.

Once they got a bunch together, they’d fly them out to LA where they would film them taking part in a bunch of different challenges. The winners would win a 100,000 dollar grand prize should they complete and win all the challenges.

To be honest, Minnie was dazed out the moment she heard about the 100,000 dollars grand prize. God, she could use that money. If she had that, then she could pay off the rest of her family’s debts and finally move out!

“My boyfriend and I are going to audition,” Dani said, sounding overly excited.

At this, Minnie’s world came crashing down around her.

“It’s only open to couples,” she reminded herself.

Unfortunately, Minnie and Arthur ended up leaving at the same time. They also lived only a block away from each other, so they also had to walk in the same direction, too.

“Having that money would be exceptional,” Arthur said out of the blue.

She blinked. “Yeah, it would so why are you rubbing it in? I’m painfully single and as far as I’m aware, you are, too.”

“… well, we could always pretend to be a couple, audition, and then see if we get on the show,” Arthur suggested. “We are both strong, fit, and capable people. If anyone can win this competition, it will be us.”

“Okay, that sounds like a great idea except for one small, little fact. We hate each other!”

Arthur snorted at Minnie’s outburst.

“And? It’s called faking it until you make it and if we have that 100,000 dollars between the two of us, we really will make it.”

The plan was beyond crazy, but Minnie was desperate. She needed money and if this was the only way to do it, then so be it.

“If we are going to do this, we’re going to have to come up with a foolproof plan and make sure we get our stories straight.”

So began the execution of their plan. They produced a cover story about how they were coworkers turned lovers. It was important to hammer out the details of the story. If they didn’t, then people would easily see through their lies and realize that this was all just an attempt to win the money.

In case they asked for proof, Arthur and Minnie started spreading the idea that they had been a couple for a while, but were keeping it secret because they were unsure. They took pictures, posted them to social media, and tried to make their fake relationship seem more real.

A few weeks later, the producers and the crew of Love in a Small Town showed up, ready to hold auditions. Arthur and Minnie were there bright and early, with their nerves on edge.

“We can do this,” Arthur assured Minnie, who was the more pessimistic of the pair. “Our story is foolproof. We’ve been over and over the details to make sure no one can poke holes into it.”

Minnie threw her head back and sighed.

“Yeah, well, let’s see if your charm and my dry sense of humor can charge the producers enough to put us onto the show.”

Arthur blinked, a small smirk making its way onto his face.

“You think I’m charming?”

“Annoyingly so,” Minnie muttered.

Before Arthur could read anything more into her words, Minnie stepped into the hotel lobby where the auditions were being held. They checked in and then sat down in a couple of those cold, uncomfortable chairs you usually found in school auditoriums.

Minnie squirmed, trying desperately to get comfortable, but it just wasn’t happening. There was no getting comfortable in these types of chairs. The two went over their story one last time. When they were done, they were called inside and went through what Minnie thought was the most awkward audition ever.

Surprisingly, the awkward part wasn’t pretending to be in a relationship with Arthur. It was standing in front of these producers who practically oozed a Hollywood aura. None of them knew what it was like to live in a small town or if they did, it had been years since they had left the Hollywood bubble.

“Thank you for auditioning,” the producer’s assistant said as she led them back out into the hall. “We’ll be in touch with you in a few weeks to let you know if you made it into the final lineup or not.”

The second they walked out, Minnie groaned.

“We did terribly.”

Arthur winced.

“Yeah, we were pretty awkward… but hey, I think they bought we were a real couple so that’s something, right?”

“Oh yes, that fact is going to help bring me out of financial ruin and keep me warm at night,” she responded sarcastically.

Arthur rubbed the back of his head nervously.

“Well, I’ll see you at work then…”

Minnie walked off, giving him a halfhearted wave.

A few weeks later, Minnie was operating under the impression that they had not gotten through… until one afternoon during her lunch break, she received a phone call.

“Hello is this, Minnie Jackson?”

“Yes, this is her… Can I ask who is calling?”

“This is one of the assistant producers from Love in a Small Town! We want to inform you that you and your boyfriend have made it through the auditions and will appear on the show!”

Minnie dropped the phone in shock. When she heard it clatter loudly onto the floor, she quickly snatched it back up.

“Hello… sorry, I dropped my phone,” Minnie blurted out. “So, as you were saying… we passed?”

“Yes. Are you still interested in appearing?”

She swallowed. “Could you give me a few hours? I need to talk with Arthur first just to confirm.”

“Of course, but we do need to hear from you by tonight otherwise we’ll pass on your offer to somebody else.”

“I understand. I’ll get back to you soon.”

Minnie cut her lunch short and ran back to the café. She burst into the door, scaring several of the customers from the intensity of it. Ignoring them, Minnie rushed into the back where Arthur was grabbing some more supplies.

“We passed the audition!”

Arthur gaped, dropping everything in his hands. It splattered onto the floor, making Dani let out a panicked yell.

“I-I wait, what?”

“Arthur!” Dani scolded. “I’m happy for you guys, but clean first and then celebrate!”

Once the mess was cleaned, Dani agreed to pop out and handle the customers for five minutes so Minnie and Arthur would have enough time to at least discuss some things.

“So… we passed?” Arthur asked in obvious disbelief. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I just got the call. We have until tonight to accept the offer otherwise they are going to move on to another couple. One that is together and not faking it for the cash prize.”

He blinked, giving Minnie a strange look. “Of course, I want to do it! We didn’t go through the trouble of creating a fake relationship to just give up now!”

“Shit, we are doing this aren’t we?” Minnie asked, trying to contain her laughter.

“We can do it. I mean, god knows we need the money.”

For Minnie, it was entirely about the money. She saw no other way to get that large amount of money in such a short amount of time, especially with the medical debt that still loomed over her head. She desperately needed this as much as Arthur did.

When they told their bosses what was going on, they were thrilled for them. They didn’t seem bothered at all that two of their employees were leaving to go film some reality show for a few weeks. Minnie was grateful because if they did end up losing then they were going to have a job to fall back on. This was something for which she was incredibly grateful.

Telling her family was even more difficult. To say they were shocked was an understatement, but they were always supportive, so Minnie wasn’t surprised when they said that they backed her 100 percent.

In a matter of a week, Minne’s life changed. She packed up her things and then was on her way to LA with Arthur.

“They couldn’t even spring for business class?” Minnie asked Arthur who let out a soft chuckle.

“Well, they are playing for our airfare and hotel while we are out there so I’m just grateful we didn’t have to pay out of our picket.”

Minnie leaned back in the seat and groaned. “I guess so, but I still would have liked to have a little more legroom available. I have long legs, you know!”

The two of them were around the same height. Arthur was around 5’8, an average height for a man while Minnie was 5’8, which was on the tall side for women. If Arthur could put up with it surely could Minnie… in theory.

Minnie was thrilled once the plane landed, and they were instructed to leave. Given that this was her first time in Hollywood, she was in awe as they walked out of the airport. However, her sightseeing was cut short when they noticed someone standing near a limo with their names written on it.

“I guess that’s for us,” Arthur suggested weekly.

He looked disappointed to not enjoy the view, but Minnie didn’t comment on it. She chose to just walk over towards the car before explaining who they were.

They drove a short distance, stopping at a fancy-looking hotel. Minnie once again found herself in awe.

“Well, damn this place is fancy.”

Arthur whistled. “It is. The place I got married in wasn’t even half as fancy as this.”

Quickly, the pair were ushered inside and met with a familiar face. It was the assistant producer who had been there for their audition and informed them they made it on the show.

“Hello, again you two! I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Rosa, one of the assistant producers of Love in a Small Town. I have your room keys right here. Please come back down around 5:00. We are having a meeting in the dining room with the rest of the contestants so we can go over the rules.”

The hotel room was smaller than Minnie thought it would be, but this wasn’t the worst part. She couldn’t believe that there was only one bed.

Both Arthur and Minnie shared a look.

“We can take turns with the bed?” Arthur suggested.

She huffed. “It’s a queen-sized bed so the both of us can fit on it. We’ll just put some pillows between us as a barrier or something.”

An hour later, they were heading to the dining room. It was there they found 9 other couples. Some were around Minnie and Arthur’s ages while others were older. There were a few same-sex couples as well as one who looked fresh out of college or still in college.

The thing that united all of them was that they were all from small towns across the United States.

Minnie pointed to two empty chairs and hurriedly sat down. Arthur was hot on her trails, taking the seat next to her. They had just sat down when Rosa, the assistant from earlier, walked into the center of the room.

“We are so thrilled to welcome you to the official start to Love in a Small Town. The reason this show was pitched in the first place is that we wanted to showcase that love isn’t just found in fast-paced and flashy cities like LA, New York, Seattle, and Portland,” Rosa explained. “Out of the thousands of couples we interviewed, you ten were the ones whose love stories stood out the most!”

She glanced at Arthur, the two of them sharing a look. Either these people were easily fooled, or they were better actors than either of them thought.

“In the next three weeks, your love will be put through a series of five challenges. The couple that has the most points at the end of the three weeks will receive the 100,000-dollar grand prize!”

A few people raised their hands, but Rosa motioned for them to lower them.

“We will get into the five challenges shortly. First, we need to go over the contracts we are going to need you to sign.”

The contracts were pretty self-explanatory. Minnie read it over at least twice and then signed her name. Once all the contracts were signed, Rosa continued with her presentation.

“The first challenge will be a sort of scavenger hunt. We will give you a clue written on a card that hints at a popular landmark in the area. Your task is to find your tourist spot first. In the second challenge, we have an ode to the great British bake-off! Work together to please our taste-testing judges and you’ll walk away with the most points. With the third challenge, we are going to require you to get physical by entering our very own custom-made obstacle course.”

Rosa paused when there were a few groans from the couple, a soft chuckle eventually escaping her.

“Don’t worry because the fourth challenge won’t be a physical challenge, but a classic game of charades! Then we have our final challenge, which is our version of the newlywed game. Remember, only the places 1st through 5th will get points, so keep this in mind.,” she explained. “That does it for our explanation. Go mingle or head back up to your rooms. We’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning so we can start filming the scavenger hunt!”

Minnie wasn’t one to make small talk, so she headed back up to the room. She was surprised that Arthur followed because he was usually the type to enjoy small talk.

“Too tired to socialize?”

Arthur shrugged. “It’s been a long day. Honestly, all I want to do is lay down and sleep.”

She snorted. “You and me both.”

Minnie kicked off her shoes, not even bothering to undress before she climbed under the covers. She put up the pillow barrier, hoping it would make the sleeping arrangements less awkward.

“Goodnight,” Arthur said, out of the blue, catching Minnie off guard.

“… night. Just stay on your side. I’m a kicker.”

He laughed.



When Minnie’s alarm went off the next morning, she resisted the urge to grab her phone and chuck it at the wall. She sat up in bed, groaning as her muscles protested at the movement.

Her eyes drifted towards Arthur who was fast asleep, snoring softly. His blonde hair was mused and something about it was strangely attractive.

“Wait, what?” Minnie blurted out, quickly shaking her head as if that would dispel the thought from her head.

“Hm?” Arthur mumbled sleepily, eyes fluttering open.

Minnie climbed out of bed and avoided so much as even looking in his direction.

“Get up. It’s morning and we don’t want to be late on the first day of filming.”

If Arthur thought something was off about Minnie, he didn’t say anything. They headed downstairs without much fanfare and after everything was set up; it was off to the races.

Minnie hurriedly opened the envelope once they were outside, freezing out anything and anyone else except Arthur.

“A popular tourist destination with a pagoda to boot,” She read, loud enough so only Arthur could hear.

“… a pagoda?” Arthur repeated, nose wrinkling in confusion.

“You usually see it on Asian buildings… but what could fall under that category in Hollywood?” she muttered, eyes widening when it hit her. “The Chinese Theater.”

Arthur quickly opened the map they had been given and ran his finger over the many lines and streets. “This is the quickest way to get there.”

“Lead the way.”

Minnie let Arthur lead. Map reading was not her specialty. The only map she could read was her google maps, which was not allowed for the challenge.

“Where the hell did you learn to read maps, anyway?”

He grinned. “My grandad always liked to take me on road trips during the summer and he was old school. No GPS. Simply good, old-fashioned maps.”

“Well, I guess I picked a good person to start a fake relationship with.”

In the end, the two ended up in second place. They got 10 points while the 1st place couple got twenty points. Minnie thought they did pretty well, but for the second contest, she intended to win.

The two of them had spent years working at a café, which was especially true for Minnie. Baking was something Minnie excelled at.

“We got this,” Minnie told Arthur just before the competition started and she was right. They won first place, giving them a total of thirty points so far.

They had a couple of days before the third challenge started so Minnie decided to get some sightseeing in. She had an entire day planned to go around Hollywood by herself. Then Arthur asked if he could tag along. He seemed so genuine that Minnie found herself saying yes.

“I know you like spending time by yourself, but I appreciate you letting me come.”

“It’s fine provided you don’t talk my ear off,” Minnie warned. “I can’t be introspective if you’re chatting insistently.”

“Well, I have to make some conversation, but I don’t expect you to respond with more than a noncommittal nod or grunt.”

Minnie blinked. “Grunt? I do not grunt.”

She playfully shoved him when he broke out into a fit of laughter.

The shift in their relationship was so different from how it had been weeks ago. Ever since they put their plan into action, Minnie found her coworker growing on her. It made her forget the intense dislike she had for him.

“Hey… can I ask something without fear of getting shoved into a manhole or something?”

“… depends on what it is.”

Arthur laughed nervously. “When we aren’t arguing with each other we make a good team.”

She blinked. “Not a question.”

“Hey, I’m getting there,” Arthur muttered. “I’m just wondering if we can continue this back home. Whether we win or not, I’d like us to get along. Not saying we have to be friends, but civility is a nice thing to aim for.”

It was a fair request. She didn’t answer him right away, instead choosing to focus on the sightseeing. When they were winding down later that night, Minnie finally addressed it.

“You know, I can’t even remember why we started fighting in the first place. I know it was a misunderstanding, but I can’t remember the specifics of it.”

Arthur frowned, furrowing his brow.

“You know what? I can’t remember either. How crazy is that? We just let that prevent what could have been an interesting friendship from blossoming.”

“Hey, don’t get that ahead of yourself,” Minnie playfully warned.

They got back to the hotel room later than Minnie intended, but come morning she felt prepared for the obstacle course. The obstacle course ended up being more difficult than any of them expected. Minnie stumbled a few times before she passed the baton to Arthur, costing them valuable time.

In the end, they got third place, making their total points so far 35. It was a devastating blow to Minnie who didn’t say a word until they got back to their hotel room.

“Minnie, it’s okay. We still have a chance at winning the competition.”

She slowly turned towards Arthur; brown eyes narrowed into angry slits.

“It’s not okay! I could have screwed up our only chance to get this amount of money,” she snapped. “How is that okay?”

“Because it is!”

Minnie sat down on the bed, burying her face in her hands. She stiffened when she felt the bed dip next to her and a tentative hand resting on her shoulder.

“I’m intense,” Minnie muttered.

He snorted. “Yeah, I noticed that early on when we started working together.”

“Normally it scares people away, but not you,” Minnie pointed out. “Even when we were more hostile towards each other, you didn’t run. You pushed back.”

“What can I say, I’m hard to run off.”

Minnie’s heart fluttered, and she quickly put the kibosh on it by loudly announcing they should get to bed.

The next challenge didn’t happen for two days. It gave them time to relax and just catch their breath. When it became time for the charade challenge, Minnie was prepared and felt like they were on track to win this challenge.

Working together in a busy, small-town café meant things were fast-paced. Sometimes, they had to rely on non-verbal cues, which was the only way to communicate during charades.

They had some strong contenders for first place. Minnie and Arthur ended up squeaking out a win, putting their total points at 55. Another couple had 55 as well, putting them at a virtual tie. It would be the final challenge that was going to tell who was going to walk away with the grand prize.

“This is insane,” Minnie exclaimed, throwing herself onto the comfortable queen-sized bed. “I can’t believe we made it this far.”

“If we can just score better than that couple from Idaho, then we have it in the bag.”

Minnie resisted the urge to squeal, trying her best to appear calm and put together.

“What are you planning on doing with the money?”

He blinked. “Probably pay off some debts. You?”

“Same,” Minnie muttered with a groan. “Is this what it has come to in this country? We have to join stupid competitions to have any hope of paying off all our debts… which is crazy.”

“Tell me about it.”

The more time they spent together, the more Minnie found herself realizing that she was enjoying herself. What had started as a ridiculous plan to get their hands on some cash was turning into something she never expected.

It scared the crap out of her. Minnie was counting down the days until they got back to town because then she could go back to her normal and pretend none of this had happened.

The newlywed game was a little intimidating because they weren’t a couple. Hell, they could barely be considered friends until a week ago! At Minnie’s insistence, they did a mini question-and-answer session, proving they knew more about each other than they both realized.

Still, Minnie didn’t want to get cocky. One wrong answer and they could end up going home with nothing to show for it except for a few trips to Hollywood. This wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it also wasn’t the reason they had put themselves through all this trouble in the first place.

While Minnie appeared to be calm, cool and collected on the outside, she was a wreck on the inside. For Arthur, he was showing his nerves to everyone within a 100-foot vicinity, forcing Minnie to try to get him to focus.

“Wasn’t it you who said we had this in the bag?” Minnie whispered to Arthur, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. “Take a deep breath and get ready to kick some Idaho ass.”

He choked on a laugh, eventually breaking out into a fit of coughs.

“I-I think I’m good now. Thanks, Minnie.”

She gave him a salute and prepared herself for the start of the final challenge.

It was touch and go for a while. Minnie would think they were winning and then that damned Idaho couple would come out of nowhere. In the final round, they ended up doing very poorly, giving Minnie and Arthur a chance to surge ahead.

The two didn’t win first place, but second. However, the Idaho couple came in third, putting Minnie and Arthur in first place.

“Wait, what?”

Minnie blurted out as Rosa rushed towards them.

“And congratulations to our winners of the first season of Love in a Small Town!” she exclaimed, waving wildly at the cameras. “How about the two of you give us a kiss for our viewers at home?”

It looked like an excuse was forming on Arthur’s lips, but before he could say anything, Minnie grabbed the collar of his shirt and yanked him close. She planted one on his lips, quietly impressed with how soft they were.

After they parted, Arthur looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Minnie, on the other hand, finally accepted what she had been trying to ignore not for just weeks, but years. She had been attracted to Arthur since the beginning and when given a chance to get to know him, it only made her feel stronger.

The two didn’t get to talk about the kiss until the next day because everyone was focused on the fact that they had won the competition.

“So… about that kiss…” Arthur started to say, nervously rubbing the back of his neck. “What was that? I mean, I know what it was, but it was surprising you kissed me out of the blue. Were you just trying to sell it to the show?”

Minnie swallowed, deciding not to run from her feelings anymore. She looked him straight in the eyes and told the truth.

“It wasn’t me trying to sell our fake relationship. When I kissed you, I meant it. I like you, Arthur,” she told him firmly. “I know things are crazy right now and I’m not expecting you to accept my feelings, but I feel you should know.”

“You think I don’t feel the same? I thought it was pretty obvious,” he said in disbelief. “Here, I thought you didn’t feel the same way, but you do. That’s… outstanding.”

Minnie stared, before bursting out laughing.

“God, we are a pair of idiots, aren’t we?”

He grinned. “Completely.”

Minnie wasn’t sure which one of them started the kiss that time, but one moment they were talking and the next their lips were touching. It didn’t matter. What mattered was Arthur was no longer in shock and was enthusiastically kissing her back, much to Minnie’s liking.

They still had so much to figure out and where this relationship was even going, but admitting their feelings to each other was a start. Minnie promised herself that they would have an enlightening talk once they got back home. However, until then, she was going to enjoy this feeling.