Home > Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other

Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other
Author: Bethany Turner

Chapter 1




Friday, March 18

8:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time


“Coming up in the third hour of Sunup, Elena and Hayley are going to sit down with a few of the heroic women and men who were on the ground fighting last month’s tragic wildfires in the Sierra Nevadas. So many amazing stories, Mark.”

“There really are, Brynn. So many unsung triumphs among the heartbreaking devastation.”

“And later, Lance will be joined in the kitchen by one of the queens of the Hallmark channel, Lacey Chabert. I hear they’ll be cooking up a batch of Lance’s perennial game-day favorites—sweet-and-spicy fried plantains. Yum! I may just have to stick around for hour three today, Mark. How about you?”

“If not for the plantains, then for the inside scoop on the first round of NCAA March Madness, courtesy of ASN’s Ellis Haywood. Have you been keeping up with ASN’s behind-the-scenes coverage on Facebook, Brynn? It’s really been a lot of fun.”

“Well, no, I haven’t, Mark. But I have been keeping up on TikTok.”

Mark laughed . . . just as the teleprompter told him to. “Oh, I get it. I see how we’re playing this today. Subtle, Brynn. Very subtle.”

I feigned innocence. “Whatever do you mean?”

The crew in the studio laughed, just loud enough to be heard perfectly on-air in the background. They didn’t have to be told when to laugh. After years in the business, they could sense the exact moment to make their off-camera presence known, to help our viewers believe we really were just a big, happy family they invited into their living rooms each morning.

“It’s no secret I’m the elder statesman around here.” Mark threw his hands in front of him in surrender. “Guilty as charged!”

“I’m not giving up until I get you on TikTok.” I strategically faced the camera. “Don’t you want to see Mark Irvine on TikTok, America?” Mark laughed and shook his head as I read my next lines. “You would crush some of those dances, Mark. I just know it!”

It was probably as clear to all of America as it was to me that our producers were gearing up for some megalaunch onto TikTok for Mark. Probably during sweeps. And indeed, America was going to love it. Was Mark truly going to crush it? That was much less certain. In fact, they would probably play up his elder statesman persona and allow him—nay, force him—to humiliate himself for the amusement of millions.

I’d been making bets with myself over which long-obsolete trends they would subject the poor man to first. Would it be that bottle-flipping thing that had been so popular with teenaged boys forever ago? Nah . . . that was too lame, even for Mark Irvine. Besides, as much as he professed obsession with March Madness coverage, I’d witnessed the effort he had to put forth in sports segments. The effort he had to put forth for anything that required more hand-eye coordination than it took to avoid jabbing a microphone into his own eye, really. Bottle flipping would not go well for him.

They’d probably make him film something like the first-name challenge or one of the other trends that had been popular among middle-aged adults whose teenagers fled TikTok the moment their parents set up an account. Yeah . . . that was probably the low-impact effect they would go for. He’d “surprise” his wife by calling her by her name (Lulabelle, I think?) instead of “Bunny”—the name Sunup audiences had been hearing him refer to her as for fifteen years. They’d eat it up. Mark Irvine had turned his hokey-dad personality into an art form, despite the fact that at—what? forty-seven?—he was only about a decade older than me. Yet here I was, cast in the role of the young, trendy ingenue.

Morning audiences were great about accepting whatever twenty-first-century version of a Norman Rockwell painting you threw at them. And you wouldn’t hear the thirty-six-year-old trendy ingenue complaining.

Mark’s charming, self-effacing monologue came to an end on the teleprompter, and I refocused my eyes on the words that began next to my name.

“I know what trend would be perfect for you, Mark. The Rockafeller Skank!!”

I hadn’t been listening or following along with whatever Mark had been saying, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t have any trouble faking the enthusiasm the two exclamation points were intended to help me feign. Yes. The Rockafeller Skank was absolutely the only-trendy-among-TikTok-users-with-a-handsome-401k trend they would make him start with. Ballroom dancing to an annoying, repetitive dance beat from a few years before Billie Eilish was born? What’s not hip about that? Yeah, it had Mark Irvine written all over it.

Mark’s featurelessly handsome face morphed into an expression of good-natured horror. “Rockafeller . . . what?” He continued to play his part perfectly, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possibly not just an act. Perhaps he had done what no one else on earth had been able to accomplish: he’d somehow lived nearly fifty years on this planet free of both TikTok and Fatboy Slim.

I laughed sweetly at his “scripted” cluelessness and patted him on the arm. “Don’t worry about it, Mark. I have a very, very strong suspicion this will all make sense to you very soon.” I patronizingly patted again, and the crew laughed to perfection.

“I’ll trust you on that, Brynn.” He shrugged for the benefit of the camera and then carried on with his lines. “Now, before we hand things off to Elena, Hayley, and Lance, I want to say, on behalf of all of us—on behalf of the entire Sunup fam, tuning in all across the nation—what a joy it has been to finally have you seated next to me on this couch. It’s been a long time coming.”

“Has it? For me, the last ten years have flown by,” I responded. Because that’s what the teleprompter told me to say. Never mind that I could have told stories for days about being passed over for the “fresh face” or “up-and-comer.” About the “good old boy” guys from the network’s club of safe, boring, demographic-approved men like Mark filling the rotating vacant seat on the couch while I kept working hard and paying my dues and smiling sweetly when network executives dangled the “your day is coming” carrot in front of me to keep me happy. “I feel like every seat I’ve been blessed enough to sit in here at Sunup, no matter the hour and no matter the role, has been as cozy as it could possibly be. And I loved every single minute of my time in the third hour.”

Mark nodded. “I know that Elena and Lance are going to miss you dearly.”

Well, now, that simply wasn’t true at all. It was one thing to serve one’s time. To earn one’s keep and prove one’s worth. To invest the time and effort it took to become an invaluable asset. It was another thing entirely to spend five years on a couch with Elena Delgado, pretending to be besties while the cameras were rolling and skillfully avoiding every attempt she made to sabotage my career when they weren’t.

And Lance . . . Well, he had just never liked anyone.

But the lies came so easily once you knew how to play the game.

I clasped my hands over my heart and squished up my face like I was watching a baby bunny rabbit eating a carrot. Then I spoke into the camera. “You guys! Thank you. For everything.” I knew this was what they all wanted from me. What the public wanted to believe. They wanted to believe—they did believe—that Elena and Lance were watching from the studio next door with tears in their eyes, cheering me on and making plans for our Sunday brunch together. “I love my fam, so much.” I curled my fingers in front of me and made a heart. “And of course that fam just got bigger and better, with the addition of Hayley Oswell to the Sunup3 couch. Isn’t Hayley just a stellar addition to the fam, Mark?”

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