I blink at him, stunned into silence.
“Could something like that work?” he starts, and begins folding it back up. “We don’t—”
I put my hand on his arm to stop him. “Yes, the idea makes sense. I can see how it might work.” I bite the inside of my cheek to contain my smile, and feel the tight burn across the surface of my eyes, the rare sensation of tears forming. I wish we were anywhere but here, somewhere I could really thank him. “I—”
My phone vibrates on the table, and I have to restrain myself from throwing it through the TV. It’s from Robyn.
Home Sweet Home is trending at #6!
I open the app and swipe to the trending tab and we’re not at number six, we’re at number two.
“You’re trending,” I say, and turn to look at Melly where she’s now pacing the front of the room, her phone to her ear.
“We’re what?” she asks.
I turn my phone to show her and she rounds the couch. “Hashtag Home Sweet Home is at number two in the US!”
Melly drops into one of the chairs. “I can’t believe it.”
I scroll through both their accounts. Even the tweets that aren’t pure unadulterated love are resigned haters. “Look for yourself.”
@melissaEllenTripp @The_Rusty_Tripp The show is amazing! Congrats you two! #HomeSweetHome
@melissaEllenTripp melly you are so cute! I need to know where you got the jacket in episode 4! #HomeSweetHome
@melissaEllenTripp @The_Rusty_Tripp I cant with this show. DO ME NEXT #HomeSweetHome
I can’t believe these assholes own my Netflix queue AGAIN. When will I be free?? @melissaEllenTripp @The_Rusty_Tripp #HomeSweetHome
Melly scrolls through the tweets. “I was so worried they’d hate it.”
“How can you even say that?” I say. “You guys killed it. This is what you do! You listened to what they wanted and made sure that’s what they got. That was you. There are a hundred other decorating shows out there, but all of those?” I point to my phone. “Those guys are there for you.”
Melly gives me a teary smile and then looks over at her husband. “Did you hear that?” she asks him. “We did that.”
Rusty rubs a giant hand over his face and puts the footrest down on the recliner. “I need another beer,” he says, and walks into the kitchen.
Unfazed, Melly hands me my phone. “I need to call Ted,” she says. “Thank you, Carey.”
She walks away, phone already up to her ear again. Next to me, James leans forward. “That was really nice of you.”
“I didn’t say anything that isn’t true.” I shrug, absently checking my phone when it vibrates again. “Melly is great on camera and with the clients. It’s everywhere else that she’s a mess.”
We sit down on the love seat and let the next few episodes play, continuing to get updates from Robyn.
Hypable is livetweeting!
EW has their first article up. They love
The FugGirls are watching and tweeting about Melissa’s hair!
FYI I agree with them. She does look like a Walmart Reese Witherspoon
Carey, make an appt to get that fixed
People, Just Jared, and Pop Sugar tweeted about the show!
By episode six, I’m full as a tick and already regret the three pieces of cake I wolfed down. Stress eating is not my friend. It’s also not escaped my notice that Rusty—back in the La-Z-Boy—is being very quiet, and James seems to be growing more restless with every episode.
“Can I get you anything?” he asks me, standing from the love seat.
“No, thanks,” I say, then look closer. “Hey, you okay? It’s going great. I have a good feeling.”
He runs a hand through his hair. “Yeah, of course.”
“Okay.” I watch him disappear into the kitchen.
“We’re the top trend!” Melly shouts, dropping into James’s vacant seat. “Take that, Joanna Gaines.”
My phone, Melly’s phone, Rusty’s phone, and I’m assuming James’s phone by the way he rushes out of the kitchen, vibrate at once. Nobody dares to breathe.
The offer for a second season is in. It’s official, we’re a hit.
If I were an outsider looking in, I’d find the mixture of reactions hilarious. Melly jumps off the couch, screaming with joy. She bends to kiss her husband and immediately Skypes Robyn for details. James practically sags with exhausted relief before looking directly at me with an intensity that reads both I’m so relieved I could cry and I’m gonna sex you so hard later. Honestly, I love both translations. Rusty doesn’t even look at his phone and, with a sigh, flips down the footrest of the recliner again and stands.
“I’m gonna go for a walk,” he says.
“Okay. Just—” I pause because what do you say to a six-foot-four adult man? Be careful? “Stay close, okay? It’ll be dark soon.”
“Yes, Mom,” he says, and disappears into the kitchen again.
“I can’t believe we did it,” I say. “Holy shit.” I turn to James, surprised to find him already next to me.
“Yeah, holy shit,” he says, and then he’s kissing me, right here in the middle of the giant family room, with Melly just next door. He’s kissing me like he might never kiss me again. And then he stops.
“We need to decide what we’re going to do.”
“Do about what?” I ask, momentarily confused.
“The show.” He cups my face, smiling as he kisses me again. “Listen. I want you to have all the information before—”
His attention is suddenly snagged away, eyes searching the windows.
“Wait—shh. Do you hear that?”
I turn my head where he’s looking and strain to make out exactly what that sound is. “I think it’s a car?”
It takes all of two seconds for both of us to realize what that means. We run to the kitchen and out the back door, feet pounding on the ground to the other side of the house. The car is gone, and so is Rusty.
Thirty minutes. It takes thirty minutes to find a cab, and another forty to get to the nearest bar. Neon signs cover most of the small windows, and a tiny marquee that simply reads HOTSY TOTSY hangs above the door.
It’s dark inside, but I’m glad. The cramped space smells like stale beer, dusty peanut shells, and cigarettes. I would not want to know what this place looks like when brightly lit. The bottoms of my shoes stick to the linoleum as we make our way across the room and spot Rusty surrounded by a few men playing pool.
“This doesn’t seem so bad,” I say. “A little depressing, but he looks okay. Maybe he just needed to blow off some steam. Rusty’s a happy drunk. He hugs everyone, promises to help them redo their roofs, then is down for the count.”
James seems to consider this. “Okay, new plan. We’ll let him get shitfaced, steal the keys, and then roll him back to the car. I’m worried he’d be more trouble if we try to get him to leave.”
James takes my hand and tugs me toward the bar.
“This looks exactly like the kind of place my dad used to hang out,” I say, sliding onto a stool and waving to the bartender. I motion to a giant mounted fish hanging above shelves of colored liquor bottles. “I think we had that fish in our basement.”
James gives the fish an appraising look as he sits down next to me but still doesn’t let go of my hand. Instead he tugs it into his lap, toying absently with my fingers. “My dad was more of a beer-on-the-patio guy. I know,” he says, waving away my laughter. “He also wears socks with his sandals, so you should know what the future holds.”
James clears his throat as the bartender stops in front of us, and we each order a drink, thanking him when he steps away.
The silence is heavy for a moment, and just when I think he’s going to let it go, he speaks. “Actually, no.” He spins on his barstool to face me. “There are enough people dicking us around. I don’t want to do that. I think you were right before: we should talk about what it will be like back home.”
“Okay …” I say, waiting for him to elaborate.
“I don’t want this to end.”
I suck in a breath. The music playing seems to pulse and fade with my racing heartbeat.
“I don’t want it to, either.” I swear I have never smiled this much in my entire life. Is this what love feels like? Like your chest is a hot air balloon, and you have to just hold on and go where it takes you?
“Good.” A grin spreads across his face. “I’m glad we’re on the same page.”
The bartender sets our drinks down on the coasters in front of us.
“But I know who you are.” We both whip around at the sound of a woman’s raised voice near the back of the bar. “I literally just watched you on TV. You’re married to the designer. The blond one!”
Rusty drops onto a stool, a tumbler of clear liquid and ice cubes in one hand and a pool cue in the other.
“The designer.” Rusty snorts. “Let me tell you a little story. Melissa Tripp couldn’t design her own pizza, let alone an entire house.”
“Oh shit,” James says aloud, launching out of his seat to intervene. With a sigh, I toss back my drink before reluctantly getting up to follow. I do not get paid enough for this.
“What? I love her stuff!” the woman responds. “You were on that other show, too. The one with Miss America.”
“Stephanie?” Rusty asks, and my stomach drops.
A crusty-bearded man on the barstool near Rusty joins the conversation with a leer. “Heard she was your girlfriend.”
Rusty nods. “I’ve had more sex with Stephanie Flores in the last six months than I’ve had with my wife in the last six years. He’ll tell you,” Rusty adds, pointing to James.
By now people have started paying attention. I catch a couple in a booth listening intently. I see someone else with their phone out.