Viral internet fame did not agree with Nessa at all. Two months had passed since coming face to face with Finley Kekoa’s devastating pectorals and losing her job. She was pulling herself together and looking into her options, which was a really roundabout way of saying she had decided to put on real pants and leave her brother’s apartment to look for a job.
Real pants sucked, and she couldn’t even complain about it on Facebook. She’d preemptively shut down and deleted all of her social media before even checking the 837 notifications. In a fit of pique, she’d even thrown her phone in the trash. Digging it out later was a pain, especially since Jonathan’s evil cat stared at her smugly the entire time.
Nessa hated that cat, but Jonathan’s hovering brotherly concern was even less palatable.
“So, you’re dressed! That’s great!” Jonathan swept into the living room where Nessa was sitting, picked up mail off the entryway table, and awkwardly shuffled the envelopes without reading them. “Do you have an interview? Do you need coffee? I just brewed some coffee.”
“I’m fine, thanks! Where’s Cal?”
“He already headed out. His hours have shifted a little earlier, but he’s okay with it because he realized we can finally get to that Filipino place that closes by, like, 9 pm because he’ll get off in time. We were both discussing it, and we think you should come out with us. We can treat you to dinner and catch up!”
“Jon, seriously? I’m squatting at your place, completely underfoot. What’s there to catch up on?” His brow furrowed slightly at her flippant reply. His thick black eyebrows were just like their dad’s. His unwavering concern made her feel immensely guilty for turning down his offer.
“Okay, okay...I’ll come along. I just need to run some errands today.” Nessa stood up from the couch and grabbed her purse. She’d tied her oversized t-shirt into a knot at the hip, and tucked her new phone into the back pocket of her jeans. “When should I be back?”
“We’re going to leave from here around 7:45.”
“Okay, Jon. I’ll probably be back way before then. See you later!” Nessa hustled out the door before Jonathan could ask any more questions. She had a few stops to make.
Pulling her long hair into a messy bun on top of her head, she walked out to the car and got her phone GPS to direct her to the nearest Cheap Cuts. She wished she was one of those adulty adults who knew the name and gossip of a cosmetologist at a nice salon. She wished that she could interject in conversations about hairstyles and say, “Oh, you should go to Blue Ribbon Salon and get Claude to do your cut and style. He’s MAGICAL.” Honestly, she just hadn’t ever had the money, and small talk with hairdressers made her top 20 irrational fears. Hence the long, unstyled hair. Although, after what had happened, talking to a hairdresser seemed much less daunting...
The speculation, doxing (release of personal information online), and cruel hazing in the first week or so after the scene at Emilio’s convinced Jonathan and Cal that a total cut-off was the healthiest, safest thing. No one on the internet needed to know how long she wet the bed, what she wore to her first school dance, and how she ran away from home at age 15. But the internet was a cruel mistress, and people sucked. A lot. Including that ridiculously good looking asshole, Finley Kekoa.
During the second week, they found her with 23 tabs open on her laptop, chugging cheap fruity wine, and ugly crying. Cal had bearhugged her and dragged her bodily away from the computer, while Jon had put the computer in “time out”--locked in their home safe until they all established a Safety Plan that Nessa agreed to.
Jon and Cal monitored the gossip a bit every day, and screened Nessa’s emails. She agree to go internet-light, and step away from social media and apps until it all died down. Cal took her to buy new glasses, and they were pretty much the only reason she wasn’t reading dogeared fantasy novels under a tent made of sleeping bags in her parent’s basement. On some levels, it all chafed, but on the other hand, they created a safe landing pad for her rather spectacular fall--which was still, none of it, any of her own fault.
If her former employer wanted to be a misogynistic conclusion-jumping assface, then she didn’t have to work for him. Nessa wished fervently that she had quit instead of being unceremoniously fired on the phone.
Before turning the ignition key, she looked around to make sure her brother wasn’t peering into her window before opening the game app--one of her few existing guilty pleasures. Her brother and brother-in-law were far from patriarchal authoritarians, but they worried a lot. She had reinstalled her app, so that she could unwind and play--even if it reminded her of That Guy. The load screen cleared, revealing her avatar, which stood on a miniature map depicting the suburbs where her brother and his husband lived.
There were no nearby stops or stations, but a little creature that looked like a mutant bunny popped up almost immediately. Nessa quickly caught it, and then put her phone securely into her grippy mount on the dash, with the map to Cheap Cuts prominently displayed.
Twenty seven dollars and three hours later, she drove herself to the mall, grabbed a late lunch, and wandered around fairly secure that she was unrecognizable with an asymmetrical bob, buzzed undercut, and streaky highlights. Looking at herself in the mirror was shocking, and shockingly freeing. Her new cut and glasses made her look like an entirely new person. She nearly skipped out of the food court while waking up her game app.
Catching some digital creatures while stretching her legs was exactly what she needed. She also grimly committed to picking up job applications at the various mall venues, since making her break into journalism seemed especially difficult at this point.
(UNDER CONSTRUCTION--Will edit to add more ASAP.)