Home > The Seat Filler

The Seat Filler
Author: Sariah Wilson


“Juliet, I think we should go over the rules one more time,” my best friend, Shelby, said to me while anxiously wringing her hands. I wanted to remind her that we were wearing gorgeous formal gowns and standing backstage in a massive theater filled with some of the most famous people in the world. This was the kind of moment we’d dreamed about having when she’d been sick. I wanted her to live in the moment with me.

But I knew why she couldn’t, so instead I nodded. “Tell me again.”

“When the cameras are on, make sure that you don’t do anything that will draw attention to yourself, or else you’ll get kicked out and then Allan’s mom will hate me forever.”

I reached over to squeeze her hand. Even while Shelby had been going through the worst parts of fighting leukemia, she was always so serene and calm. A year after she was officially declared to be in remission, she’d met Allan Standish, and they’d both fallen quickly and hard. I hadn’t been the least bit surprised when he proposed to her two weeks ago, even though they’d only been dating for about three months.

Apparently Allan had an idiot for a mother (and I was supposed to call her by her actual name, Harmony, and not Satan’s Evilest Minion like I wanted to) and she didn’t like Shelby or the engagement. She had declared it was all happening “too fast.”

She’d even gone so far as to offer Allan a vacation to Hawaii and a new sports car if he’d end things.

Which led to Shelby twisting herself into knots trying to impress Harmony. I truly did not get it. Allan told Shelby that his mom’s opinion didn’t matter, that he loved her and chose her no matter what his mom thought. Which made me like him and respect him even more, but Shelby apparently didn’t believe him. She was determined to win Harmony over.

Harmony ran a company, SeatFiller Nation, which provided volunteers to dress up and attend the biggest Hollywood and music award shows to fill in empty seats. Producers didn’t want any vacant chairs during a broadcast, because it would give the impression that their show was boring (it was) and that even the celebrities didn’t care (they didn’t). People in the audience would get up to go to the bathroom, hang out at the bar, accept and/or present awards. Allan had told us that sometimes nominees who hadn’t won would leave after their category was announced (which was why they always saved the big awards until the end). But nobody wanted the people watching at home to see that the big stars had taken off, so they used seat fillers.

A couple of the volunteers and one of Harmony’s staff members had canceled on her this morning, leaving Harmony in a (deserved) tizzy. She’d called on Allan to help her out. Shelby had overheard their conversation and had volunteered the two of us to fill in the remaining slots. Shelby had done it to be kind and to suck up; personally, I was impressed by the inherent brilliance of the offer, given that Harmony couldn’t decline without coming across as, well, Satan’s Evilest Minion. Or the pettiest one, at the very least.

I would have preferred to leave Allan’s snobby mother high and dry, but Shelby was a much better person than me and didn’t share my general disdain for People Like Harmony.

So she and I had run out and rented a couple of nondescript black gowns (another rule—we couldn’t be too glitzy or sparkly, so as to not draw attention away from the celebrities). It was a great color on Shelby—her soft blonde hair, blue eyes, and bright-red lips looked perfect with her dress. I, on the other hand, felt a little like I was wearing a Morticia Addams costume as we waited backstage while Allan, working as a spotter, told the seat fillers where to go.

We’d been here since early in the morning, standing around in our gowns, waiting. The awards show had officially been going on for about an hour and a half, but since Shelby and I had the least experience, Allan was keeping us backstage. Which meant more waiting. I’d naively assumed being a seat filler meant more filling seats and less standing.

But Allan had said he needed us, so Shelby’s way of preparing was to go over the strict rules that I’d already heard four times that day.

“Okay,” Shelby said. “The next rule? Do not speak unless you’re spoken to. You can’t start a conversation with anyone, no matter who it is.”

“Right! Otherwise it’s off with our heads!” I paused before continuing. “But what if I’m a big fan and I’m compelled to share that with them?”

She did not look pleased with my joke. “Don’t. You’re only supposed to be seen and not heard.”

I nodded back in what I hoped was a serious way.

“When you move down the row to get to your seat, be sure that you’re facing the people sitting down.”

I couldn’t help myself, even though I knew better. “So, you’re saying I shouldn’t put my butt in Chris Evans’s face when I scoot past him? That just seems like a missed opportunity.”

Her death glare, one I had very rarely been the object of, was enough to make me knock it off and not ask her if I was allowed to make eye contact with anyone around me or if that had been forbidden, too. Seeing as how I was about to become the lowliest of peasants.

“And most important of all, the number one rule to rule all other rules: all seat fillers must be in a seat or backstage when the lights come on.”

“Like the world’s worst and stupidest game of musical chairs.”

“I’m serious. If you’re out there in the aisles or in front of the stage when they start broadcasting again, Harmony will murder all of us.”

“I wonder who would play me in the Netflix documentary about it.”

“Juliet!” Shelby protested. “Please!”

I took both of her hands in mine. It was just so ridiculous to me that Harmony didn’t adore Shelby that I had to make fun of the entire situation. But it was past time to be serious to make my best friend feel better. “I promise I will behave and be a shining example to all seat fillers across this great land of ours. But I hope that you know that you do not have to kiss up to this crazy lady. You’re marrying Allan, not Harmony.”

She shrugged, and I saw the tears glistening in her eyes, which made me want to hunt Harmony down and punch her in her stupid face. “I want everyone to get along, and maybe if I can show her that I’m . . .”

When she trailed off, I filled in the blanks for her. “That you’re what? Amazing? A survivor? One of the best people I know?”

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