I opened the browser and it spun around for what seemed like forever until it latched on to a page. The bar wavered and then disappeared again. I had a feeling staying in touch wasn’t going to be easy here. Then again, nothing had been easy so far.
Still, it at least allowed me to check my Twitter and Facebook accounts. There wasn’t anything too interesting there. I was still new to the whole Twitter thing so I didn’t have many followers but occasionally someone would “tweet” me and say something nice about the show. Today someone had said they really liked the concept of the show and asked where we were going next. I replied back and told him he’d have to wait and see. Dex and I had decided it was probably best if we never gave anyone straight answers – keep people in suspense, something Dex did very well.
It was nice that I never got any nasty comments on my Twitter (so far). I think people reserved that for actual famous people and stuff like that since Twitter accounts weren’t anonymous; well, not really. You were still held accountable, plus it was easy to block people on Twitter. One click and you didn’t need to look at them anymore.
The blog, of course, was another story. Every single nasty comment was left by someone anonymous who didn’t provide a name or an email address. I suppose there was some way I could try and figure out who they were by finding out their IP address but that involved doing something in the back end of the blog and Dex would have to do that himself. I knew if I asked him to look into it, he’d respond with a flat–out no and then chide me for caring what other people thought.
I couldn’t help it though. Every time I thought about checking the blog out of some strange torturous compulsion, I felt so nervous I was almost sick about it. I hated not knowing when these comments were going to come and what they were going to be about. They went straight to my email, too, which didn’t help. Even if I avoided looking at the blog, I still had to check my emails at some point, and that’s where they were, waiting for me.
Like this time. It’s not like I got a lot of emails from people but sometimes it was from my cousin Jonas in Sweden, sometimes it was a concert announcement, sometimes it was catching up with my friend Gemma who lived down in Eugene. To be honest, I didn’t get enough email to warrant being an obsessive checker but there I was, checking anyway. It seemed I got comments more than anything else.
Case in point, as the browser slowly logged me into my email account, I could see four messages from the blog comments. Three of them had names assigned to them, which usually meant they were benign or spam. I always checked those last to raise my spirits. The final message was by Anonymous.
That sick feeling returned and my heart started to pound loudly in my chest. It was a different kind of fear than the one I was experiencing on the island. It was almost more upsetting in a way, which was really ridiculous. It was just words, silly stupid words from people I didn’t know. It shouldn’t have been as terrifying as camping on a ghostly leper island, yet it was.
I took a deep breath and clicked the name. I closed my eyes as the internet was found among the spotty reception and waited. On the plus side, my fear of the island was subsiding.
I opened them slowly and looked down. The comment was short and read: “I can tell from looking at your face that you’ve never accomplished anything in your life. It’s sad that this probably is the high point. Thank god you’re too fat to have an ego.”
Ouch. Major fucking ouch.
I felt tears pricking hotly at the nerves behind my eyes. It wasn’t so much the fat thing; I was kind of used to that by now and it was such the typical cheap shot to take on a female who had a little meat on her bones. It was the other thing. It hit a little too close to home, to be honest. This actually was the most I had accomplished; at least it felt that way. And they were right. That really was sad.
“What the hell are you doing?”
I looked up and saw Dex storming towards me like a gruff freight train, the pebbles kicking up behind him. I must have totally been in my own little world to not have heard him coming.
He stopped in front of me, spied the phone, and yanked it out of my hands.
“Hey!” I yelled at him.
He looked at the phone and read over the email with disgust. “Another comment? Nice. Way to play the fat card again, you bitch.”
He stuck my phone in his pocket, shaking his head at me. “I gave you a simple task, read the bloody books and work on the fucking script and instead you’re back to checking the blog again. Do you like to torture yourself?”
If I wasn’t close to crying before, I definitely was now. Those hot prickles came faster. But I couldn’t cry in front of him and not over that. So I channeled the tears into anger and gave him my most potent glare.
“I can check whatever the fuck I want to check, especially when it’s on my own phone.”
“You’re technically on the clock right now.”
“Oh, whatever, Dex, since when is it any of your business? And why do you care so much? I don’t believe you have that much concern for my well–being.”
“It is my business. You know I have to keep you in check here and that’s hard to do when you keep getting sucked into this shit.”
“You don’t think much of me, do you?”
He sighed loudly and rolled his eyes to the heavens. He plopped down beside me on the log, leaned forward with his elbows propped up on his knees and folded his hands into a steeple.
“I’m going to say this only once, kiddo,” he said slowly, his voice bordering on fatherly and fed up. “You know I think the world of you.”
Actually, that was news to me. He could see the skepticism on my face.
“I do. All those things I said last night about...you, I meant them all.”
Ugh. Why did he have throw that in there? Butterflies at the pit of my chest were beginning to stir. They did not need the encouragement.
“But again, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what I think. It’s all about what you think. What you think about yourself. Obviously this crap is getting to you; otherwise, you wouldn’t bother checking and you wouldn’t be getting upset.”
“I’m not upset,” I said and opened my eyes wider.
He gave me a sad smile. “You looked pretty miserable as I was coming over. You think you’re pretty good at hiding those eyes of yours. But you’re not.”
“Well, I’m sorry I’m not as deceptive as you are.”
“It’s a learned art. You’re better off learning how to not give a shit about what other people think of you. Whether it’s what some strangers on the internet think, whether it’s what your old classmates think, or what I think or what your parents think, in the end, no one’s opinion should matter but your own.”
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t be listening to you right now?”
“You’re not getting out of this that easily. And I’m not giving you back your phone either.”
I stared at him, dumbfounded. He had to be joking but his eyes said he wasn’t.
“You’re confiscating my phone!?”
He got up off the log. “For now. We’re all ready to shoot. I’ve got the camera up on the tripod, lighting is perfect. We are ready to go and I need you in the moment. Need you to be here and ready to tell the island’s tale.”
I was barely listening to him. My eyes flitted to the water, finding the rhythmic waves a less aggravating sight than Dex lording over me with a stupid smug look on his face. Sometimes I felt like we were total equals with each other and other times it felt like we were in some bizarre teacher–student situation. Or doctor–patient, as it seemed to be now.
“Aw, now you’re mad,” he said mockingly, bringing a cigarette to his mouth and lighting it.
I avoided his face and sucked in through my teeth. Stupid jerk. I had half a mind to pick up one of the stones and throw it at him. The anger inside me was astonishing enough that I was almost afraid I’d do it. He twitched a little too, as if he could feel the energy rolling towards him in an invisible wave.
But I just got to my feet, grabbed my books and walked off towards the grassy knoll, my feet sliding awkwardly on the stones as I went.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
I didn’t answer. It should have been pretty obvious. I could see the camera already set up on the hill, all he needed was me. Might as well get this part over with. I wasn’t exactly in the camera host mood but by God I was going to have to fake it.
I made a quick stop in the tent. I zipped the door behind me so he’d have the common sense not to come in after me, and attempted to make myself camera–ready.
I changed into a flattering v–neck, long–sleeved shirt and swiped on a coat of cherry lipstick that was the same vivid red. Yeah, this was obviously not my usual on–camera attire but you know, fuck that. I was going to prove I did deserve to be out there. I knew the top made my breasts look great. I mean hey, Jenn shows hers off on freaking Wine Babes and she has nothing on me in that department, plus the red coloring and lipstick suited my skin tone and hair. I didn’t care if I was going to freeze my ass off, I was a professional and this is what was going to happen.
I decided to keep my black jeans and Chucks on and applied a few eye–opening strokes of mascara. I was ready to go.
I stepped out of the tent and immediately was struck into submission by the cold wind.
Mind over matter, I thought to myself, though I suddenly wished I had worn a more padded bra. Oh well, I’d just make the headlights work for me. Keeping my chattering teeth quiet, I strode up the path over to the hill, where Dex was now fiddling with the camera settings.
The hill was grassy and undulating, with rocky mounds here and there. I didn’t let my mind think about whether they could be graves or not. The view was gorgeous, especially in the fading sunlight. The beached curved out to our right, while a rocky shoreline and smaller beach spread to the left. Across the way sat the stoic Little D’Arcy Island and its lone house.
“Jesus Christ,” Dex exclaimed. He had looked up from the camera and was staring at me all bug–eyed. Not ogling me, unfortunately, just surprised.
“Is there a problem?” I asked testily and crossed my arms. Naturally this made my cleavage even more impressive. I was doing it out of anger, though, I swear.
“Uhhh.” He blinked hard and tried to focus.
“You are such a guy,” I remarked, shaking my head at him.
He let out a small laugh, but kept his eyes on my chest. “Yeah, I guess I am. Sorry, I…you just surprised me…you’re normally not…aren’t you freezing?”
I shrugged as casually as possible. “I’m fine. Are we going to do this or what? We don’t have that much use of the light and we’re wasting time talking.”
He hesitated. He wasn’t used to me telling him what to do.
“OK,” he said quickly. “Let’s go then. Stand a bit over to the right, maybe back up a foot so you don’t, uh, overwhelm the camera.”
I did as he said, holding my shoulders back and tried to calm my nerves. I may have looked confident but I didn’t feel it all. I was just going to have to fake the whole thing. I’d show everyone just how professional I could be.