One New Follower

Originally published in WATCH: A Stalking Anthology by Black Hare Press

“Truth or dare?” Kendra asked, her eyes sparkling mischievously in the glow of the LED light strips outlining the bedroom walls.

Emilia chewed her lip. “Dare,” she replied.

Kendra whispered in Lacey’s ear. Lacey’s eyes widened. Her mouth made an O.

“Should I?” Kendra said.

Lacey nodded. “Definitely.”

“Should you what?” Emilia’s eyes darted between her two friends.

“Okay, here’s the dare,” Kendra said. “Whoever your next follower is, you have to pretend to be in love with him.”

“No matter how gross he is,” Lacey added.

“You guys …” Emilia’s mouth fell open in disbelief. “Seriously? Pretend for how long?”

“Until he loves you back.”

Emilia groaned. She had over a million followers on Instagram. Many of them were men twice her age, who left creepy comments and flooded her DMs with futile requests for nudes. Some even offered cash.

“You’re an ‘influencer,’” Lacey said, making air quotes. “So, influence.”

Suddenly, Emilia’s iPhone pinged with a new follower notification. Before she could look at it, Lacey snatched the device away.

“Hey! Give it –” Emilia tried to grab the phone, but Lacey tossed it to Kendra.

“Let’s see …” Kendra tapped the notification, then burst out laughing. “Oh my God, you guys.” She held out the phone for the others to see. On the screen was a photo of a round-faced man with a neck beard, wearing a GameStop uniform.

“Emilia, meet your new boyfriend.” She glanced at the screen. “Jason Jerkins, aka starwarsgeek98.”

“His name is Jerkins?” Emilia fell backward on the bed, feigning death. “Fucking kill me.”

Kendra dropped the phone on Emilia’s stomach. “DM him.”

“Now?” Emilia complained. “Fine.” She unlocked her phone and tapped out a few words, followed by the whoop sound of a sent message. Then she locked the phone and slammed it face-down on the bed. “I hate you.”

“We hate you, too,” Kendra said sweetly.

“So much,” Lacey agreed.

#

“Bye, bitches!” Emilia called from the front door.

Kendra stuck out her tongue and waved, then climbed into her Lexus.

Lacey sat in the passenger seat. “You think it’ll work?” she whispered as she blew Emilia a kiss.

“Let’s go find out.”

#

Kendra parked her car in front of the GameStop. A man with a round face and a neck beard leaned down and waved through the glass.

Kendra grimaced at Lacey with a pained expression, then lowered the window and smiled sweetly. “Hey, Jason.”

“It worked!” the man exclaimed. He was practically hyperventilating with excitement. “She messaged me!”

“Told you,” Kendra said. She pointed at the pair of envelopes in his hand. “Those for us?”

“Sure are.”

The man passed the envelopes to Kendra. She handed one to Lacey, then poked her thumb into the other and ruffled through the thick stack of twenty-dollar bills inside.

“You really think I have a chance?” he asked hopefully.

“Definitely,” Kendra nodded. “Word of advice though? She likes to play hard to get, so whatever you do … don’t give up.”

“Don’t worry,” the man said. “I won’t.”