Her name was Casey. She had a way of constantly tucking her chin down and looking sideways at herself whenever she took a selfie or looked in the mirror…showing her good side. It bothered her mother who couldn’t understand how someone needed so many pictures of themselves.
Casey floated through most days in school on a never-ending stream of cheerful patter. She strolled down the hallways with her various girlfriends and chronicled most moments of the day on her phone.
She was 15. On the weekends, whenever she could get away from her parents, she hung out at her friend, Samantha’s, house. Samantha’s father worked from home and always had enough free time to drive them to the mall on Saturday evenings.
As Casey walked through the wide boulevards, sipping on whatever coffee drink had been advertised that day, she pointed, pouted, giggled, whispered, and gestured at stores, posters, advertisements, and boys. Some boys trailed behind them in their wake. Sometimes she gave out her number and handles. Sometimes she closed her eyes and coyly shook her head. But even when she said no, she was excited to be asked.
She would finally return to her home after the long evening wound down, usually dropped off in front of her house by Casey’s dad, looking back and waving at Samantha who would trail her hand out of the passenger window, flicking off Casey lovingly. The night would wind down with Casey sprawled in various poses on her bed, writing, texting, sending pics, and flirting with whoever she had seen that week, that day, that night.
She had just walked into her room on that particular Saturday, the day she had made eyes across the food court with someone new. She’d never seen him in the mall before. He had dark, thick hair and had looked at her over the top of his soda can as he sipped from it with a straw. Even though she kept talking with Samantha she kept tossing sly glances back in his direction and was pleased to see that he never stopped looking at her. She was hoping he might come by her table, and she had already decided to give over her chat ID when she glanced back in his direction and realized he was gone. Oh, well.
That evening after the mall she had the house to herself. Her parents were at some work thing. She took a shower and washed her hair, using a new chamomile shampoo. Then, rather than blow-drying it, she let it start to air-dry as she flopped on her bed flicked out her phone, her hand on remote control as she clicked open the first app. Several people had sent emojis. There were a few new pics. She scrolled, bored. She kept thinking about the guy with the dark hair. Where had he gone?
She kept scrolling when suddenly there was an unfamiliar beep and she quickly switched back to the main screen. What app was that? She didn’t recognize the icon. It looked like a red circle with a winking eye. She remembered Samantha had asked to use her phone earlier in the evening. Maybe she had installed a new app?
Casey clicked the icon. A generic-looked interface popped open and there was only one message lit up. The name was FriendlyBoy567 She pressed into it. A text was waiting.
hey, miss snack…
She looked at the words. The cursor was blinking in the empty text box below his text. Who was this? She waited. Maybe it’s Samantha playing a trick.
She typed, you are?
A text came back immediately, you know…mall. soda can. sippin:)
A slow smile crept across her face. She held the phone in both hands for a second, looking at the text and picturing his thick hair.
She typed, how you found me?
His text beeped, got ways.
She closed her eyes. She shouldn’t be enjoying this. But there was something fluttering in her chest as she looked his words.
Another text beeped in, m’feeling thirsty. show me a pic?
She frown-smiled. She thought, hmm, kind of quick, aren’t you? She typed, …not tonight.
Another second and then another beep. This time it was a text with an image.
The text said, no problem… She clicked the image and nearly dropped her phone. It was her and Samantha. It was the selfie she had taken in the food court just before she had seen him.
Her heart was beating faster. She typed, whered you get that?
His text, have more. have lots.
Suddenly her phone began to vibrate and beep and the screen filled up with a cascading slide of pics…all her…all taken that day at the mall. But the slide continued. She saw several pics from earlier in the week from school.
Casey dropped her phone and put her hands over her mouth. She was shivering. She stood up, faltering. The room seemed like it was spinning.
Her phone beeped again. The text lit up under the scroll of her pics, scared? sorry.
She grabbed the phone and typed frantically, where?!
This time there was no immediate response. She realized she was gripping her phone so hard her knuckles were white. She stared at the screen, waiting.
Beep. His text, come out…ill show you.
Suddenly she heard the long beep of a car horn from outside her bedroom window. Her window looked out onto the driveway. Still gripping the phone, she slid to the window, ducking below the rim, and peaked over the edge.
There was a car in the driveway. She didn’t recognize it. She wished she had left the outside light on. The car looked black. From where she was looking she couldn’t see who was sitting in it, but there was a faint red cherry of a cigarette on the driver’s side.
She ducked back down, panting. She typed, go way. my dads comin out
His text beeped back immediately, nope. not home.
How did he know? She typed, im callin the cops
His text, if you do im comin in
She felt tears streaming down her face. She was gasping quietly. She typed, what you want?
There was a pause. Longer than any yet. Then a beep and his text came through. But it was different. The font was fancy. Regal almost. Like it was written rather than digital.
I’ve been with you for a while. I know my Casey with her chamomile hair. I know what she likes. I’ll take you someplace special. We’ll sit down in a field and the moonlight will fill up our sky and make our bodies look slick and shiny in the dark. You’ll feel yourself giving in like warm water. You’ll feel my arms around you tight and know there’s no trying to get away.
She read this slowly. Her eyes felt blurred. Her arms were filled with lead. A soft, solid, heaviness settled into her head.
There was a beep and another text.
Beep. Another text.
As though she was standing behind herself she watched herself stand. She walked to her bedroom door. The hallway slid below her feet as she walked toward the front door. She watched her hand push open the door and she felt the night air swirl around her feet. There was the sound of the engine as he turned the key.
She walked to the passenger door. She watched her hand open it. Inside she saw a land she had never seen before. A place she didn’t recognize. He gestured. She got in.
…has worked as a teacher in Hungary, Moldova, Romania, China, and Cambodia.
…lives and works as a writer in Minnesota.
…enjoys books, podcasts, and long, slow films.