“So, like, if I don’t get my geometry grade up, my parents say they will ground me,” yourbaebailey pouts her glossed lips.
“That’s so lame,” mira_miranda rolls her eyes in solidarity.
“On god!” Snap. “Which filter? Clarendon looks so good on my skin, but juno makes my eyes pop!”
Both girls sigh in irritation. The stall door swings open, and another sixteen-year old steps out. yourbaebailey and mira-miranda refuse to move away from the mirrors, and the mirror lights.
“Uh, excuse me? I need to wash my hands.”
Two pairs of eyes framed by impossibly long, wispy lashes blink.
“I guess I’ll just use the sanitizer in the hallway.”
“Uh, anyways,” yourbaebailey flips her blonde hair, styled in perfect, beachy waves. She pulls her phone up to create the perfect downward angle to elongate her neck. mira_miranda points the selfie ring light to highlight the artistic contours of her friend’s face.
“Hello, beautiful people of Instagram! It’s your bae, Bailey! I’m so excited to share that I now have 100,000 Instagram followers. Woo! Hit me up on Tiktok to see more of my fabulous life. Love you!” Lips pucker, and she freezes to get the exact frame.
“Babe, that was perfect,” coos mira_miranda, running her hand through her wavy dark hair. She’s ready for her turn since yourbaebailey promised to cameo on her next post.
“Let’s do it again. This time fan me so my hair has more bounce.”
mira_miranda tightens her berry-colored lips. Again? “I really have to go. Unlike your parents, mine really will ground me for failing a class. ‘Bye, babe.” She blows a kiss and leaves without a look back.
yourbaebailey rolls her eyes and mutters, “Selfish bitch,” under her breath. The perfect reel must be achieved. She climbs on the sink, phone in hand, to open the window. She hopes a breeze will come through to give her that messy-but-not-messy look.
Just as her fingers grip the window pane, her shoes slip. To be fair, they were never intended to be used on a ceramic surface. If only a photographer was there to capture her fall: golden hair flowing, eyes bright with surprise, arms gracefully extended. Her foot kicks the selfie ring light on her journey to the floor.
yourbaebailey braces for the pain of landing on tile floor. Yet the pain never comes. She falls and falls into blackness until slowing to a gentle stop. All is empty. All is silent.
* * *
Outside the bathroom door, Dani steels herself. “Just stand up for yourself. So what if she’s the most popular girl and has like a million followers. You need to wash your hands” Dani takes a deep breath and reenters the bathroom she had left only a few minutes before.
It’s quiet. She releases her breath and heads to the first sink. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees the tipped-over tripod.
“What? Hello? Is anybody else in here?” She shakes her wet hands and walks the path between sinks and stalls. The tripod and a Burberry backpack lay on the ground, under the sole window in the bathroom. Only one person would bring a selfie ring light tripod to school. If it belonged to any other person, she would have brought the items to the office. Dani rolls her eyes and leaves the bathroom.
* * *
yourbaebailey does not show up to geometry class. Mr. Thompkins marks her absent without a thought other than relief that he will not have to battle her phone for attention. mira_miranda is upset that yourbaebailey did not tell her that she was skipping class. Even if you have to attend class, your best friend should still invite you to play hooky, right? The rest of the class barely registers her absence in their fight to keep their eyes open.
* * *
Where the hell am I? What kind of creepy school basement is this? yourbaebailey turns her head side to side, seeing nothing, feeling nothing. She checks her phone. No cell service, but she has WiFi. The screen times out. Looking into the black mirror, she notices that her hair has more body than it has ever had before. Despite being in a void, her face has the perfect lighting. She snaps a selfie and posts it to Instagram. #lost #explore #selfie. Immediately, her phone lights up with notifications.
* * *
“If angle A is 90 degrees, then the sum of the other angles must be . . .” Buzz. mira_miranda’s phone interrupts her concentration. She glances at the notifications.
“Ms. Lopez, do you have a question.”
“Uh, Mr. Thompkins, I’ve gotta . . . I’ve just gotta go.” mira_miranda stuffs books, papers, and pencils into her bag and runs out before her teacher can say anything.
How could she? mira_miranda has been with yourbaebailey since the beginning of her online life, supporting her, taking pictures, liking and commenting to boost the algorithm, and this is how she repays her? She takes the perfect picture without her so-called BFF. Her blond hair ripples like the ocean. The background is empty and black, yet that makes her skin glow as if radiating its own light. Already the hearts and comments are pouring in. @yourbaebailey ong, girl, you are so beautiful! Damn! @yourbaebailey can get it! She scrolls rows and rows of love, adoration, and obsession.
How could she do this without me?
She enters the bathroom, the door slamming behind her. Tears sting her eyes. I’ve taken picture after picture. Held up lights and fans. Learned how to photoshop. She promised that it was my turn. She promised.
mira_miranda sees that influencers have started to copy the plain black background with less success. (You really need a void to achieve that effect.) The ring light tripod and the Burberry bag catch her attention. Ugh, she must have left them when she snuck off campus. The years of bitter jealously cause mire_miranda to snap. She folds up the tripod and throws it into the large trashcans in the hallway. She takes the expensive plaid backpack and hides it in the trunk of her car, smiling at the thought of yourbaebailey searching furiously for these items.
* * *
Days go by. The account @yourbaebailey has grown to 500,000 followers. Celebrities and influencers have copied her style. Her first post from the void has been reposted thousands of times. The likes, comments, and shares sustain her. If I keep this up, I can have a million followers by June! It seems as if all of her dreams are coming true. She continues to post selfie after selfie.
Her parents, away at one of their vacation homes, see and like her posts and assume she is fine. Her teachers aren’t paid enough to care about a few absences from a student with access to everything at her fingertips. Her friends think she is pulling some stunt for clout, and rumors speculate that she will soon reveal that she is living in a hype house with other influencers or she is dating some A-list celebrity and has to keep it quiet.
* * *
Driving back from an SAT tutorial, mira_miranda’s can’t stop thinking about how ungrateful yourbaebailey is. She never told me that she is dating someone famous! I did all of that for her, and she couldn’t even share one of my posts!
Her foot grows heavy against the pedal. She has one hand on the wheel and another holding her phone, scrolling through all the void-like selfies which have taken over Instagram. It’s not even that original. Oooh, an all-black background! Whatever. She probably has like a million studio fan blowers and ring lights to get that look. No, she probably photoshopped it. That fake bitch.
She lifts out of her seat at the impact of hitting the speed bump. The second sound comes from her trunk. What was that?
She pulls over in a parking lot to check. It’s yourbaebailey’s bag. mira_miranda grabs the leather straps and stomps to the nearest dumpster to be rid of it. As she lifts the bag to chunk it, she feels the corners of a laptop. A devious idea forms.
She sits on a curb stop. Within seconds, she logs in. yourbaebailey has not updated her password since we got Instagram in sixth grade. A few seconds more, and the password is now “yourbaebaileysux.” She tosses the laptop and bag into the dumpster and drives safely home.
* * *
Password updated? What? yourbaebailey types “MrsHarryStyles” into her phone again and again. Wrong password?!? She opens her mouth to scream but finds she has no voice. The comments and likes stop. Her numbers of followers and views drop. That glow emanating from her dims until she becomes the void.