It’s not often I’ll say this, but this was one of the times where I am so very thankful for boys being able to talk constantly about nothing.
The conversation might have only been between Saint and Jean, but it meant that this grocery shop was going along smoothly since it didn’t rely on me to make the conversation.
“You have to agree with me, given you did it too,” Jean gave me an accusatory glare.
He was exactly what you’d expect for someone who’d grown up in the Inner West. His clothes were loud; he’d worn a collared shirt that was cream, covered in small and bright tropical fruit pictures and his pants were some kind of glossy black material. His dark brown hair was curly and slathered in enough product that it sat in a perfect bouffant no matter how much he excitedly jumped around as he talked.
The conversation had started in the car and continued as we’d parked and starting walking to the shopping centre. Jean was adamant that two of us had purposely given ourselves ‘cooler’ names when we introduced ourselves, and that we all should have been allowed to pick our names.
“I don’t think it’s the same thing,” I shrugged. “Mine’s just a nickname from shortening my name. His,” I glanced at Saint, “isn’t even really his name.”
When we first met, after being shuttled to the house and having to film the sickly sweet and excited arrival, we’d awkwardly introduced ourselves. It was the sort of cringey, first class of the semester meet and greet, but all on camera and all being broadcast to the country at a later date.
It still made me cringe to think about how rehearsed I’d been as I said hello.
I’d told them during that incredibly awkward introduction that my name was Marisa, but just to call me Mars because everyone did. Someone had called me that during primary school and it had never gone away.
“No, it’s part of my name!” Saint defended himself after I said that.
“Your last name. And it’s so much cooler! Of course you’d rename yourself.” Jean interrupted him, and looked at Grace and myself to try to get one of us confirm this point for what felt like the thirtieth time in the last ten minutes.
“It’s just what everyone calls me, it’s a nickname just like Mars.” Maybe it was because I hadn’t taken his side, but it seemed like the entertainment from discussing this was starting to wane for Saint.
“What would you call yourself? If it’s a good nickname, we could just call you that.” Grace spoke up. Jean turned to her and gave an immediate grin.
“Jet Black.” He stepped in front of us dramatically, walking backwards through the sliding doors to the mall, and made a grand gesture as he turned and said it. “But! It’s with two t’s, and a q.”
“No,” Saint walked passed him immediately.
Grace and I looked at each other, and if it wasn’t our first day of knowing each other, and there weren’t the drones with cameras pointed at us darting around to capture everything, I’d have rolled my eyes and I think she would have too.
It was so lame.
“Wait, what do you mean no?” Jean looked genuinely shocked.
“Does anyone know which way Woolies is?” Saint looked around, ignoring the question.
This wasn’t a shopping centre I’d ever been to so I tried to look apologetic as he looked at us. It seemed like something in the background because after a moment or two, Saint seemed to suddenly head in a specific direction without an answer from any of us.
“It’s the coolest name!” Jean reiterated.
“It’s not, it’s ridiculous. Two t’s? A Q?”
“Have you ever met a Jet Black? Let alone a Jett Blaq?” Jean pronounced the words like they were different.
“I would think you were lying to me if you told me that was your name.” Saint powered on ahead. “Right?”
“Yes, absolutely.” I agreed quickly. Grace murmured some agreement.
“Oh, yet, you get to pick Saint as your name.” Jean frowned at none of us taking his side.
“That’s it, you’re cooking tonight.” Saint said it like he’d won the upper hand of some argument the two had been having and I expected Jean to argue again, but he just shrugged and made a face to say that was fair enough.
I think this was some kind of competition between the two of them? I don’t know, there are times where I really just don’t get guys.
It was easy enough to find the Woolworths by following where the production crew quickly ran towards to get set up.
We grabbed a trolley, and Saint pushed it along as we walked past and piled all kinds of food into our trolley.
As part of the show, we all had monthly allowances that was much more than any job I’d ever worked paid and while I wasn’t as impulsive as the others in spending the money here, I’d made sure there were enough of my favourite biscuits that I wouldn’t go hungry even if the others helped themselves.
By the end of the shop, our trolley was overflowing with a mismatch of things that all of us thought we could somehow share. We had cereals, fruit and vegetables, chips, some meats and several easy to cook meals that we’d suggested as the thing we could cook for each other.
“We should get some beer as well,” Saint put out there to the group while we scanned our groceries.
I’d been thinking about suggesting something similar to make the impending dinner a lot less awkward, and honestly, I hoped a drink would make me feel less self conscious about the cameras.
Having a production crew appear randomly, and small little camera drones jump in front of you in public really didn’t help make you forget about the fact that everything was being filmed for television.
“Maybe some wine too?” I suggested, and looked over at Grace. She gave a little smile at the suggestion. I would be happy to have beer, but wine was always better when you were trying to look presentable on television.
“Yeah, that works for me,” Saint handed the last item, one of the six boxes of cereal we bought so that we’d have everything, to Grace to scan. She’d somehow ended up as the one packing everything neatly into bags. She was being meticulous about the way she packed things and after trying to help, it became clear I’d just get in the way.
“I’ll put this on my card, someone else can get the next one?” Saint asked.
The others didn’t object, so I didn’t but it did worry me that we weren’t already trying to find a way to evenly split this.
Our allowances had to cover everything we needed for living including the household bills while we were on the show, let alone trying to make sure we weren’t overspending and possibly putting some away. I was just worried I’d end up getting shafted with other expensive things because it was “my turn” instead of just evenly splitting things between us.
Saint paid, and we headed through the centre to the bright red Liquorland store that it seemed like every shopping centre had.
“I can wait here with the food, since you should know what you’re buying,” Jean offered although I wasn’t sure why he thought Saint would know that.
“You two go and I’ll stay here too,” Grace pointed at me, sacrificing me to have to be the one to carry a conversation.
“Uh, any wine preferences?” I asked Grace.
“No, I’ve never really drunk that much. Whatever you think is good,” Grace said politely.
That didn’t help me at all and I was going to have be responsible for carrying conversation for awhile. I tried not to let my face show that.
Saint and I headed inside and there was silence as we walked over to the fridges. I needed to think of something to say, to just say something.
“Oh, you totally picked your name.” It was the first thing that came to mind.
“Yeah, I know,” Saint admitted quickly and sheepishly. I gave him a long, silent stare. How on earth did he spend fifteen minutes arguing about that then?
“I did a legal degree, and I think because you’re always referring to decisions and judges by their surnames, half of us just end up getting called by our surnames. Plus it’s much better than Alexander.” Saint added after a few seconds.
“You could have admitted that to Jean, it would have saved us a lot of time.”
“Yeah, but why would I?” Saint said as if it was the most straight forward answer in the world. Honestly, what is it with boys?
He opened one of the fridges, and hesitated for a moment before fishing out a six pack of beer.
“One should be enough, if we’re getting wine as well?” He didn’t look convinced by my noncommittal yes. “Also, I picked my surname. I didn’t pick Jett Blaq.”
Saint made a disgusted face as he said it.
I completely agreed with him, but it seemed a bit too early in the friendships to be taking the piss of one of our new housemates and there was always the issues of cameras. These words were being recorded.
“It’s not… the best name…” I struggled to find a way to say it nicely and I didn’t want to dwell on it in case I couldn’t find more ways to be polite so I asked the other question I’d had from before.
“Why did Jean think you’d know what you were buying?”
“Oh, yeah, I work at a bar,” Saint said it like I probably should have known that. I don’t think he’d said that but it was possible he’d said that and I’d been too nervous earlier in the day during the introductions to have really taken it in.
I’d recited their names several times just to make sure I never messed that up, but nothing else about it. That would be mortifying if I’d said the wrong name to any of them.
“Oh, that’s nice! Which one?” It would be good to live with someone who would know some good places to go to in the Circle.
“That okay place in the city.” Saint was quick to react to my blank stare and I guess he got that a lot. “That’s actually the name of the bar. Some days I still think it’s great, some days I hate it. It’s in the Prince Building?”
I didn’t know the bar or the building he was talking about.
“I’ve never heard of it, sorry,” I said disappointedly. That was probably going to tell him I wasn’t very aware of the cool spots in the city.
“I’ll get you guys to come down sometime. What wine are you going to get?” Saint had quickly selected his beer and we’d walked over to the wine racks, and I’d hoped Saint would just select something rather than make me decide.
It would have been easier if it was just for me but if I was picking for everyone… But it seemed pretty obvious from the way he stood waiting that he’d expected this to be my decision.
“Any recommendations?” I asked. He worked at a bar, so I figured he’d be able to make the decision.
“A red and white, in whatever price range you want to spend. It doesn’t really matter unless you’re spending hundreds.”
I agonised over the decision for what felt like too long, before grabbing two different bottles that were about $30 each. That seemed like an appropriate amount to spend on nice, for the others and for the show.
I held them up to Saint for approval.
“The red’s good, but the Estate’s pinot is much better,” Saint offered his opinion very quickly. He could have told me that while I was agonising over the selection…
I changed the white wine based on his suggestion, given he worked in a bar and that I could tell everyone he picked it if it was unpopular.
“Do we want anything else?” Saint asked, looking at the beer in his hand. The look on his face made it clear he didn’t think we had enough, but didn’t want to suggest we get more.
“This should be enough for our first night, right?” I couldn’t imagine wanting to drink any more than this while we were being filmed. “Plus I’m guessing we’ll get told tomorrow what’s going to happen about the, uh, super part of this and that’s not something anyone would want to have a hangover for.” I whispered the super part like it was a secret.
It was actually going to happen sooner than that, and with a lot more cloak and dagger than I thought a television show about superheroes would ever need to use.