Status (Social Media #4)

by J.A. Huss

Chapter One


KRISTI AND I drive in silence for almost thirty minutes. We’re going east, I know that much, because the sun is glaring ahead of us and my sunglasses are missing from my little purse. I prop my head on my hand and lean into the window, the air-conditioning blaring into my face, which in combination with the sun forces me to close my eyes.

What did we do last night? Asher was so convinced that I talked. But I never talk. Why would I say those things to him? I do remember some things, I wasn’t being entirely truthful with him. But he shocked me. How did he find about my parents? How did all these people suddenly figure out who I am?

OK, Grace. Think hard. Did you tell him things? What happened after you went upstairs?

I remember the rug. God, I love that rug. And the pink champagne. That was delicious. We did have sex. And it was… my face heats up. It was spectacular, as usual. If there’s one thing Vaughn Asher know, it’s his way around a woman’s body. He knows all the sweet spots.

Sweets. He called me that all night. I remember that too. He said… I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine.

And I said…

Kristi sniffs back a sob and I open my eyes to look over at her. She has not spoken a word since we got on the freeway and right now she’s deep in thought, chewing on her thumbnail.

I wonder if she’s worried about ruining her manicure for the wedding. She can’t really be thinking of ditching Johnny Blazen. Can she? Is this all my fault? For projecting my insecurities about Vaughn onto her situation? God, I am a horrible person. Because she probably does love that guy and I’m using her right now because she’s helping me escape from Vaughn and the media.

That whole thing hits me hard and I just close my eyes again and shake my head. All these years I’ve been left alone. No one knew Bebe’s mother was my lawyer during my trial because she practices law under her maiden name. And I don’t know if people just couldn’t stomach my reality, so they blocked it out, or if they just wanted to believe the fairytale ending. That my life went back to normal and I got the happily ever after. Either way, they lost interest in me. And even though it took many years of support from a small group of people who helped me through that time in my life, I did, in fact, recover.

Time is my friend. The more time between then and now, the better I get. I’m not broken any more. I’m really not.

“Do you think I’m crazy?” Kristi asks.

I look over at her again. She’s tapping her fingernail on the steering wheel now, looking like a mess. The car is her wedding present from Johnny. A replacement for the 2008 model she’s been driving in Denver. “I think it’s cold feet, Kristi. I’m a complete fuckup. You should not listen to a damn word I say. I was reeling from that whole pregnancy thing with Vaughn.” Just saying his name is enough to make my heart ache. I don’t say any more and Kristi drops it as well.

I like the silence.

She turns the Mercedes into a driveway with one of those rustic entry arches cattle ranches have. Red Desert Resort, the sign hanging from the arch states.

“What’s this place?” I ask, sitting up a little straighter.

Kristi looks over at me, her eyes red and teary. “My childhood home.”

“Oh, you have family here? I didn’t know that. Why didn’t they come to the rehearsal dinner last night?”

She sucks in a sob and then places a hand over her chest to steady herself. “Because they hate me.”

I just stare at her, trying to process her words. And I realize I know absolutely nothing about this woman. Aside from her being the almost-future Mrs. Blazen, I’ve not gathered any facts about her. I’m a terrible friend. “Should we go somewhere else?”

She ignores my question. Or maybe she just can’t answer it right now. Silence is your friend when you’re keeping secrets. So she just keeps driving. The road curves around and then we are at a guard house with a stop gate. Kristi pulls up to the guard and buzzes her window down with one hand while shuffling though a purse resting on the center console with the other. She finds her wallet and flips it open

“Can I help you, ma’am? The resort is closed right now, we’re not accepting guests.”

Kristi says nothing to him, just hands him her driver’s license.

He takes it, studies it, and then looks at Kristi like he’s trying to make a decision. “They’re not here,” he finally says. “They’re on vacation.”

Kristi straightens her shoulders and tips her chin up, steeling herself to be brave. “I’m not here to see them. Now open the fucking gate.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He retreats back into the guard house. The barrier lifts and our way forward opens up. Kristi buzzes her window up and drives off.

“What was that all about?” I ask. “You really grew up here?”

“Yes. My grandparents owned it, then when they died five years ago, the ownership was split up between me, my brother, and my parents.” She looks over at me. “My partial ownership is the only reason I’m allowed to be here right now. I’m what you call the black sheep.”

I have to admit, that surprises me. Perfect Kristi is the black sheep? “How? Why?”

She shakes her head. “It’s a long story. I wanted my wedding to be in Vegas on the off-chance my parents would actually show up, but”—she looks over at me—“I guess that was a huge fail, right?”

I slump back into my seat. Her disappointment fills me up and makes me weary. I’m not the only one with problems. I sometimes forget that fact. This is how I get when I’m Daisy instead of Grace. I start thinking that I own the title of Girl with the World’s Biggest Problems.

That’s why I changed my name and started a new life. Daisy is a victim. Daisy is weak, and sick, and pathetic. Grace is graceful. Grace is strong, and determined, and brave. I’ve tried so hard to put my past away. Just lock it up and forget about it. Be the new girl. Be Grace.

But this today… I just don’t know what it might mean. Will I ever be able to go back to being just Grace? Will I have to be Daisy again? Will I be some very fucked-up version of both of them?

I just don’t know.

The road winds a little and there are thick patches of juniper and spruce trees, so when we finally round a corner and the resort comes into view, I’m breathless. I drop the pity party and take it all in. “Wow. It’s stunning.” There’s a huge lake, man-made obviously, surrounded by a scattering of bungalows. The main building is a Santa Fe-style adobe, with a large terrace filled with empty tables. A café, I realize.