FridayReads: GIRL GONE VIRAL
Happy FriYAY! It’s the best time of the week, FRIDAY READS! And we’ve got an excerpt of Arvin Ahmadi’s new futuristic-scifi-contemporary-AMAZING read Girl Gone Viral to share!
Scroll down to read a special excerpt!
I swear, I’m not usually this creepy. I’m not the kind of person who gets off on eavesdropping, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve stalked a crush on social media. But right now, I’m sitting next to a celebrity couple at an expensive Manhattan restaurant, and it’s impossible not to stare.
The afternoon hangs still. No breeze, just the faint heartbeat of the city around us. If you didn’t glance up at the glimmering skyscrapers, you would think we were having lunch on a sidewalk in Paris. You would think nothing could go wrong.
I turn toward Hailey Carter, the star of the hour. Her face practically demands attention: flushed cheeks, messy golden-brown curls, those curious blue eyes. I’m surprised she’s not wearing sunglasses. It’s the kind of painfully bright day where nothing can hide—not the loose thread in Hailey’s whimsical sundress, not the puddle of blood beneath her filet mignon, and especially not the fact that her boyfriend has no interest in being with her. As my gaze drifts to him, he manages to slouch even deeper into his wicker chair and focus even more intently on his phone’s screens.
Hailey’s lips move, though I don’t hear what she says. Whatever it is, Timmy doesn’t reply. His jaw tenses, and he runs a hand through his perfect brown locks, but he doesn’t offer her any real attention.
Everyone says Hailey is lucky to be dating Timmy. She’s a constant fixture in the tabloids, the love child of two washed-up pop singers, and he’s the young Grammy winner with a fan base so rabid it sometimes feels like a parody. She dropped a tennis shoe from her balcony last year and almost killed a man; he drops platinum albums.
Hailey Carter pipes up again. This time it’s not her lips but her throat. A deep and demanding “ah-hem.” Timmy finally looks up from his phone, his face peeking out from the shade of the large overhead umbrella, and his eyes narrow on the nervous girl across the table. I hear their next words clearly.
Hailey frowns. “Are we really doing this again?”
As I stare, a paparazzi drone swoops down and flies past my nose. More of them descend like vultures, smelling the blood of a juicy tabloid story, just like they swarmed me seven years ago when word had gotten around that my dad was missing.
“Get out of my face!” Hailey says, swatting one of the drones away. “Out!”
“Hailey, stop it,” Timmy hisses. “You’re causing a scene.”
“Oh, I’m always causing a scene, aren’t I, Timmy? You get to be the calm, cool, collected one, and I’m just crazy.”
Once, I broke down in front of those flying cameras outside our home. I poured out my ten-year-old heart to them, and my mother ran and grabbed me by the wrist, pulling me inside and slamming the door shut. She told me my father was gone. That there was no point in looking for him after the police found that cold, heartless note. I told her the drones could help, because if he was out there, he needed to know we were hurting.
When you’re desperate, you’ll do whatever it takes to be heard.
“You are crazy, you know that?” Timmy spits at Hailey. He looks nervously in my direction. “You’ll never change.”
My dad never did turn up, and eventually the drones outside our house moved on. On to the next girl’s tragedy. The next juicy headline.
I wish I could say I moved on too, but certain memories are like shadows. You catch one glimpse, one fuzzy reminder of your dark past, and you realize it’s been following you this entire time.
“Get out!” Hailey Carter screams. She leans across the table and shoves Timmy with her ring-studded fists.
Timmy stumbles out of his seat. A waiter rushes from inside the restaurant, though he stands a safe distance from Hailey. She picks up the steak from her plate and looks like she’s about to hurl the slab of meat at Timmy, whose delicate fingers are curled around his chair like it’s a shield. The waiter gasps, extending an arm toward poor, beloved Timmy.
“GET OUT,” Hailey screams again. The veins in her neck pop.
Timmy doesn’t move. He glances out of the side of his eye at the whirling drones, his chest rising and falling. He can’t come off like a coward when he’s being recorded. His fans think the world of him; they’re expecting him to be brave. I look down at the piece of steak in Hailey’s hand. I can see every detail. The crimson streaks running through the pinkish brown meat. Hailey’s fingers digging deep into the flesh.
I look back up. Hailey’s face and mine are so close we could melt into one. I’m looking inside her, and I see a girl who can’t show the world her multitudes because it refuses to see more than one dimension.
She says it once more, with absolute finality. “Get out.” This time, Timmy listens—he jumps over the sidewalk fence and takes off down the street. That’s when Hailey begins murmuring to herself, “Get me out of this world.” Over and over and over. Whether she means her personal life or her mental health struggles, or this modern world where the lines between reality and fiction are blurring every day—it doesn’t matter. Because everything freezes, and the Manhattan streets dissolve before my eyes.
I’m not really there.