Contemporary Suspense


The alarm went off and I quickly silenced it. It had been set as a precaution but I had never actually gone to sleep.

For weeks I had been watching, waiting. We all had. 96.5 million followers on Jayma’s account meant the whole world was watching. 

This morning was a 5am release for me because Jayma lives in London, so the announced time was really 10am GMT. I had kept myself up rewatching her most recent tour documentary and making photo edits for the fan account I ran. Now I opened my instagram and navigated to her page. Shortly, the little pink ring spun around her icon. I clicked on it then quickly tapped the link in her story and hoped I would be lucky enough to grab one of the presale codes. I entered my email and clicked submit and waited. Five minutes later the story was gone, how many people had gotten through in that window? I checked my inbox and quietly cheered when I saw the code knowing the rest of my apartment neighbors were still sleeping. 

I had spent years following Jayma’s work, I had all her records and merch from most of her tours. The tickets were much more expensive now but I had an emergency fund in case something impromptu showed up. Something like this drop, whatever this drop was…The craziest part was we didn’t know yet what the prize would be, just that there would only be a few available and it was “very personal” to Jayma. 

I knew I couldn’t share my fervor with everyone. Most people would say they liked music, or loved a specific artist, but I felt so connected to Jayma and her work. When I heard her first single I was only 12 and I became voracious to know everything about the artist that seemed to be able to sing exactly what I was feeling. 

Jayma had mentioned that this release wasn’t going to be expensive, but it would be hard to get. She told us to pay close attention to her stories on instagram and would be leaving clues. I had notifications turned on for her posts and stories, and our Jayma fan group chats for backup, I definitely wasn’t going to miss this. 

Later that day the first clue was posted. It was a short video of her smiling, waving at her reflection in a clear pond. Her phone case was new, it had a polaroid in the back of it and everyone was speculating if that was the clue. Or if the pond was. Maybe it meant she was coming across the pond? A show in the States? It would be the first time in 2 years and maybe that meant new music? I was hesitant to speculate too much off of just one clue and waited for the next one to see how they would fit together. 


I ended the video and looked back down into the water. I had dropped my smile with the video and I could hear my manager, Arthur, talking to me but I wasn’t paying much attention. Finally he called my name with a voice that led me to believe it wasn’t the first time he had called it,

“Jayms, babe your numbers are absolutely crushing, I’ve talked to your mum and we’re discussing drawing it out for another week with a few more clues. What do you think?”

I was still staring in the pond, some little tadpoles were swimming around aimlessly and darting away when anything came too near. 

“No, I really don’t want to wait any longer. I want to finish the contest and get the prizes sent out. Just 3 clues like we discussed”

He seemed peevish at missing out on the extra revenue from my socials and the media buzz a longer wait would bring but he eventually walked off when he realized I wasn’t in the mood for conversation. My guitar was in the house and I thought about picking it up to play but the walk back across the property seemed exhausting at the moment so I just shut off my phone and laid back in the grass listening to the sounds around me for as long as my team would allow before they whisked me off to whatever my next engagement was. 

I was lying there thinking about nothing in particular when the memory of an afternoon in grade 6 came to me suddenly. I had been new to school and one of the girls asked if I wanted to go to the shops with her after class. We found a cheap little jewelry store and tried on all these necklaces and bracelets, eventually each buying a small beaded anklet. We bought lipgloss from the chemist next door and just wandered around talking about class and boys and whatever we wanted. No one looked at me then, no one followed me or chased me out of the store in an attempt for a selfie or an autograph. I wondered what that girl had grown up to do, if she told that story to people now to say she knew me before I “made it”. 

I sighed and rolled over in the grass when I heard them calling me to come back. 


I did other things too of course. I had dinner with my boyfriend and his parents that Wednesday. His parents were in from out of town and he had reserved a table at this little bistro in his neighborhood. I had my phone in my bag but a notification popped up on my watch during dinner saying that Jayma had posted a story and I excused myself to the bathroom to check. Eric looked annoyed, he knew what those notifications were that made me jump up so quickly, luckily his parents didn’t seem to notice. I gave him a conciliatory smile and speed-walked to the ladies room to check. 

This time the clue was a short video of an idyllic backyard with a wooden deck and binoculars on the railing. She picked them up and held the camera lens to the eye piece and the camera slowly panned magnifying the birds in the trees beyond. I watched the video a few times and pieced it together with the one of the water. Maybe it was a trip? A destination to a cabin? A hint to an album that she would be releasing that would be just guitar, like Taylor had done with Evermore?

I walked back out to the table just in time for our dessert. Eric gave me an arched eyebrow like he was asking a question, but we had this conversation so many times before. I knew he would listen because he cared about me but that glazed look in his eyes while I shared whatever new information I had about Jayma made me wish I’d never started talking. Instead of answering his unspoken question I smiled and pulled one of the communal pieces of cake from the middle of the table and took a bite.

The next morning she released the third clue. This one was a short video of Jayma seated at her vanity doing her makeup with one of the new lip stains from her beauty line. She was wearing a black silk robe with feathers around the wrists and the lip color was a pearly baby pink. She finished the application and looked in the camera blowing a kiss before the video cut off.


I stopped the live feed and turned the phone facedown on the vanity. My mom came into the large bathroom talking away on her phone, “We’re going to need 4 for Friday when she’s doing the meet and greet after her show and 2 to go with us to the airport afterwards. Yes the same as last time if possible, they were very good. Cheers love, thanks very much.”

She perched herself on the edge of the tub facing me, “Well darling security is all taken care of for your show this weekend and the flight to Paris afterward. They’ll stay with us through the fashion show and then we’ll have the jet ready to come back here afterward.”

I nodded as she recited the itinerary. 

“Now that Lavender boy’s manager called again this afternoon, he’d really like to work something out to have you two photographed together in Paris. I thought maybe you could do some photos together, not on the red carpet or anything but inside the show. And we could have someone waiting to snap you leaving the hotel the next morning as well. What do you think?”

I crinkled my nose and it was reflected back in triplicate off the paneled mirrors. “He’s an absolute moron.”

“Yes, but his fanbase is ravenous dear and it would boost your visibility as well for people to think you’re together. You don’t need to do anything with him besides the photos. They’ve already written up an NDA and sent it over if you’d like to review it?”

She looked at me like it was a possibility. I hadn’t reviewed a contract in years thanks to her and the rest of the team. They had skyrocketed me to success and I had been safe and protected the whole time. So what if I wasn’t going to really have a romantic date with someone, just so that it looked like I did? So what if I hadn’t ever had a romantic evening with someone in a foreign city much less my own…

“Yeah fine, I’ll do it.”

She clapped her hands together and stood up, “Perfect! I’ll let everyone know.”

I turned my phone back over and saw a WhatsApp message from D. He was confirming that my order was ready and I would be very happy with the design. I replied with a thumbs up and texted back, “let Arthur know they’re ready, and remember he doesn’t need to know about the modifications you made.”

He replied with a thumbs up and I deleted the messages. 


Three clues then the drop would take place on her fansite. There were rumors about how many codes had been given out. People online claimed they had them but no one wanted to show proof for fear of someone grabbing the code from a picture and using it before they could.

For days we heard nothing. Then finally a live video started one night. It went for a few minutes before Jayma got on camera, “Hello besties!!” she sang, a million little hearts cascaded from the lower right corner of the screen.

“For those of you lucky lot that got the presale codes, tomorrow is your chance to use them! There will only be 10 purchases available so make sure you’re there at 5pm sharp, can’t wait to see who the lucky winners are!”

The contest had piqued the interest of people who weren’t normally interested. Her follower count had surpassed 105 million now and was quickly climbing. 5pm was new, that meant I could sleep to a normal time. Except I absolutely couldn’t. I was so nervous I was going to miss it, to blow my chance to get whatever this was. 

I finally fell asleep in the early morning hours and woke up before my alarm, terrified it was already over. I logged in for work and spent most of my morning looking at the clock making sure I hadn’t missed 12pm. Finally it was 11:58. I logged into the fansite, I had my code copied and watched the countdown roll over. I quickly pasted it and pressed submit, card info already stored on the website from my many purchases. 

I waited. The computer spun. I realized I wasn’t breathing and deeply inhaled. The buffering wheel stopped spinning and the screen went gray. My heart sank. It must have crashed...Then the screen burst into a shower of gold stars and the word CONGRATULATIONS appeared. I was stunned. I pushed my chair back and screamed and spun around. I could hear my upstairs neighbor bang on the floor but I didn’t care. 10 winners and I was one of them! I turned on my speaker and Jayma’s voice came blasting through it.

A week later it came. I wanted to wait for my friends to come over and open it with me because I knew they were desperate to know what it was, but when the box arrived I couldn’t wait. I told them I would try to hold off, but part of me wanted it to be just for me. Something directly from Jayma to me…

I ripped the box open and pulled back the packaging foam to finally get a look at my prize. It was a long floor mirror, with ornate gilded designs of birds and flowers making up the frame. I was confused. Nothing had her name on it, or seemed to signify it was Jayma related at all. I kept looking at the design, between the wildlife and the flowers searching for more clues. 

I pulled the mirror gently from the box and turned it around. On the back was a note handwritten in flowing script, “Hi Love! Thank you for supporting me! I know this may seem like a funny gift but I’ve been reflecting a lot on my career lately and I’m so grateful for my fans like you who let me into your lives.” Then she drew a large looping heart and signed her name. I read it and reread it. I brushed my hand over the words then leaned it against the wall next to my closet facing out into the bedroom. I looked at myself in the reflection, then my eyes wandered around the frame and I saw more detail in it than I previously had. 

Eventually I turned away from it, back to the things I had to do, the mundane life things. My friends came over when they were out of work. They marvelled at the note like I did and we took pictures of us all in the mirror and tagged Jayma. The others who had received their mirrors were doing the same and people were going wild online pointing out the little differences between them and saying how beautiful they were. 

After my friends left Eric came over to watch a movie and spend the night. We cuddled on the couch and then started kissing as the movie wound down. We moved from the living room into the bedroom and started undressing each other. Eventually we were tired and Eric fell asleep, the moonlight filtering in on us through my gauzy curtains. I was feeling sleepy too, drained from all the excitement of the contest and finally revealing what I had won. I glanced back once more at my prize across the room before succumbing to sleep. 


I had made it through my show in London, through the madness that was fashion week in Paris, through the charade that was my time spent with Lavender and through the quiet flight back from the whirlwind few days that was really just my baseline. I still loved the performing part. I had written my music in hopes that people would hear it, and I had become one of the few artists who gets to not only play their music but make a real living from it. All the other things had come after, the beauty brand, the posh events, the level of fame that warranted extra protections and suspicions about everyone who came near me.

There was something so deeply lonely about it all. I had wanted to share my music but I didn’t realize it would mean I could never go to a bookstore on a whim or drive my car into town without being surrounded by photographers. 

In one hotel room in Spain my bodyguard had done a security sweep of the room. I watched him check the outlets, the lamps, the vents and then turn the lights off and point his phone’s flashlight at the mirror. I asked him what that did and he said it would reflect back any lenses and expose potential hidden cameras. Later, online, I found discussions about new technology that was nearly undetectable. That’s how I met D. I shared what I wanted to design and he promised discretion thanks to the price we were paying. Arthur hadn’t cared what the prize was, just that the coverage of the contest would be massive, and it was. 

Now I was in my bedroom watching the video feed of one of the cameras. I was watching a girl get ready for the evening, putting on makeup and doing her hair. Watching her friends filter in and them putting on records to dance to, clinking wine glasses and laughing about their days. I couldn’t hear them. It was too risky to put in audio elements that could be compromised and make some kind of noise and arouse suspicion. 

I meant what I said about being grateful to be let into my fans' lives. The reality was that even if I met them or spent time with them the dynamic between us would be so skewed that I wouldn’t get to really know them and it had been so long I wasn’t sure if I would be able to let anyone really get to know me either. So instead I watched them, and wondered about their lives, and pictured myself on the other side of the mirror and wondered if I would be happier living like they did.    

December 03, 2021 21:30

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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