This 21st Century love story started out like any other – with a swipe right. A nice dinner and a conversation later, Jackie makes plans to see Adam again. While in the restaurant, they get the announcement that their city will go under quarantine in the next 24 hours. They look at each other and make a crazy decision – what if we spend quarantine together? Jackie packs her things and moves into Adam’s more spacious apartment. But what happens when the quarantine goes into effect? And when it ends, will Jackie still swipe right?
BOOK BLURB - “Ring Around the Rosie”
Sometime in her teen years, a metallic ring appeared around Rosie. This ring circled her waist as it hovered in the air. She grew accustomed to the ring even though it prevented her from having any real relationships. Yet she yearned for one. One day, when she’s having a conversation with her mother, she decides to open a part of the ring that broke. But when her mother steps inside, she begins to tell Rosie nothing but negative things about her. Will this incident cause Rosie to still leave the ring open or will she close it forever?
BOOK BLURB - “Brooklyn Bound”
All she has is a guitar and dream, but Stephanie knows she’ll make it! She moves to New York City and begins to play every night club. One night, she meets a handsome man and he proposes a strange bargain. Desperate, she takes his offer. A week goes by and suddenly she’s a viral sensation from someone taking a video of her preforming at the nightclubs. The next thing she knows – she has record deals! Yet, she’d never been to Manhattan and for someone reason, she can’t seem to leave Brooklyn.
BOOK BLURB - “A Pig Wearing Lipstick”
Anna is watching from the window of a farmhouse her great-grandfather had built. Down below, Red Army soldiers are beating her father and threatening to take his farm once the Revolution is over. A few days later, the scene repeats except with White Army soldiers. Over the years, many men had come to threaten the farm, yet the farmer still had his land. Anna is always very charming as she invites the men, one at a time, to see her in the barn at night. The men never return. What is she hiding in that barn?
BOOK BLURB - “Pairing Successful – You’re Now Connected”
Living in vibrant New York City, Jake works as a day-trader. He loves his job but the gym is special. The second he puts his headphones on – he is at peace. Except. That’s not his music. Who is “JVC03”? Jakes shrugs it off and continues his workout. Weeks go by and he’s beginning to get a good sense of this person. In fact, he really likes them, yet he can’t find the courage to find out who they are. One day, the music takes a downhill turn into a depressive spiral. Can Jake find JVC03 before it’s too late?
BOOK BLURB - “Ghosts of Comments Post”
Ashley’s finally gone viral! Millions of views in just one day! Once the novelty wears off, the comments come rolling in. She only sees the negative ones and they begin to manifest into apparitions that follow her around. There’s Anna, the “negative Nancy” and Olga, who sees misfortune around every corner, and Becky who thinks Ashley is hideous and needs to change everything about herself. There’s also Bjorn, but he speaks Swedish. Who know what horrible things he’s saying! Can Ashley finish filming her next YouTube video with these spirits around her or will she succumb to their words?
She drummed her fingernails against the table almost six feet away from the barista. The hunt would commence, and she would need caffeine for the journey. School had just let out and teenagers were very predictable. They would come flooding into the mall at any minute and she would need to fight them for what was rightfully hers.
“Non-fat, white mocha with no whip?”
Mira nodded before reaching for her beverage. If they hope she’d come after announcing her drink order, then what was the point of asking for her name? No matter. She adjusted her facemask so she could take a sip before moving towards the beating heart of the mall.
She had been stupid. She was enjoying herself and forgot the time. With all the line-waiting and “this store can hold 10 people at a time max” signs everywhere, she would need to be swift. The mall was still crowded with people except now they avoided you as if you had some outwardly visible skin disease. She loved it because she was no longer subjected to the closeness of a stranger who thought personal hygiene was just an option.
Gripping her venti cup, she maneuvered skillfully through the ambling herd. There it was – Morphe. She grimaced when she saw a line. Stores stocked even less products than they used to because most people were buying things online versus having to emerge from their homes and put on their dreaded facemask. She tapped her foot and moved her mask to sip her liquid strength that was neatly presented in a cardboard cup.
“Welcome to Morphe! Please sanitize,” the woman paused her tired spiel to squeeze a generous portion of hand sanitizer into Mira's hand. “Please refrain from testing any of the products and do not hesitate to ask one of our staff for assistance.”
She nodded and practically ran in. For a moment she was lost – where were the eyeshadow palettes? She spotted them in the corner but when she got there, the golden one was sold out. She stood there for a moment, cursing her own stupidity until out of the corner of her eye she spotted a glint. She watched a girl lay down the golden palette with a loss of interest in the section with translucent powder. She tried to move as smoothly as a spy in an old film noir but instead she zipped towards the golden palette with the grace of an exploding zeppelin.
The golden gleam called to her and she snatched it as if, at any moment, it would be ripped from her hands. She had more to purchase but she needed to lock in this sale. When she inserted her credit card in the slot, she finally took a breath.
The golden treasure was hers.
A group of giggling teenagers sat in the very front row, directly under the movie screen. They were quiet during the previews but once the movie started, they began to scream dramatically.
A door would open.
A character made a sandwich.
A dog ran into the grass.
You get the idea. But after a while of this, I couldn’t help myself and bellowed:
“GO WATCH TWILIGHT!”
Enough people laughed to make it feel like I had just gotten thunderous applause for my clever quip. For a brief moment, I considered a career in stand-up. Someone had quickly exited their seat but the teenagers remained staunchly in the very front.
They continued to scream at inopportune moments. I wanted to say something clever, but I didn’t want to kill my comedic career just yet. Luckily, an usher appeared to save me from my predicament. He marched to the front and lead the teenagers out of this R-rated movie.
For the new two hours I continued to watch this “underfunded” move and I began to see where they had made budget cuts. I remember watching parts of “The Blair Witch” project when I was younger and being so bored that I began praying for a hastily painted demon or a mechanised shark to make an appearance. I honestly never finished that movie.
Again, I felt like my time was being stolen. The effects were so laughable and the plot so mundane and overdone that I began to think of what chores I had left to do at home. I tried to stay awake out of curtesy for my friend, who had dragged me here in the first place. Frankly, the only “Paranormal Activity” I noticed was how quickly this move made people’s money disappear.
I should have let the teenagers stay.
Be a Marilyn
I am a difficult woman - or so the weaklings tell me. Growing up, I was always taught that education comes first, then marriage and if I’m lucky, a career. Most important of all - of course marry for love - but marry a man with means.
“Women are either a Jackie or a Marilyn.”
Jackie was poised and elegant.If she were to get an academy award, then it would be for Best Supporting Wife. She ignored JFK’s many flings and put up with his family, who treated her as a no good outsider. She kept to the shadows and only focused on dressing well and making a good public appearance. She was dutiful, submissive and obedient.
“Women should strive to be like Jackie.”
That is what women are told even now. Just look at the movies. How many “ride-or-die” characters are expected to be women? How many movies praise a woman who “stands by her man” even though he likely abuses drugs, verbally assaults her and gives her a few hits. It’s just a few! They’re meant to be a couple - she just needs to fix him!
Life gives women enough projects and we don’t need another. But now, look at how few movies and shows depict a supporting man. A man who supports a woman is called a “simp” and other derogatory terms because even in 2020, a woman is still less.
She earns less. She’s worth less. She’s praised less.
Norma Jean Baker was nothing special. She married her first husband to get out of the foster care system. In true Hollywood fairytale fashion, she was “discovered.” She already had the body so she simply dyed her hair, assumed a new name and created her now famous “bimbo” personality. She was born in a time when women had to use what they had to get ahead. In this case, it was Marilyn’s sexuality.
Go ahead. Judge her. Many of you do while you ignore the benefits we have in 2020 that she had no access to. You think they had #metoo in 1955? Women were expected to sleep with producers and directors for money. Marilyn just bet on all the right horses and catapulted her name to international stardom.
Marilyn was no one’s supporting actress. She married the most famous baseball player in the world and yet the press emblazoned her name on the papers first. DiMaggio might as well have been Mr. Monroe.
She was the Best Actress of her own life. She eclipsed anyone who stood next to her and now, almost 60 years later we still refer to her as a sex symbol. Her movies still sell well and her face appears in paintings, tattoos and on other various merchandise. She has long been in the ground but we still remember her.
So be a Marilyn and let everyone else be a Jackie.
“Women are like cats!”
I remember my father complaining as he spared a glare at my mother. She had sauntered out of the room after a fight. I had stayed at the table, playing with my oatmeal and hoping I could just disappear.
I always hated that phrase yet here I stood in a marketplace, next to a woman with striking features. I had only asked her opinion on a scarf and she lifted those eyes towards mine with the slow, measured movement of a cat. She took a moment to consider the item and I took the same time to admire how her violet eyeshadow brought out her eyes.
She takes the scarf and gently places it around my neck for a better inspection. She smiles at me with a genuine gleam in her eyes and I am ready to accept whatever she tells me.
If I could be so easily entranced, I can only imagine how many men fell under her spell. When she turns to find another scarf, I take note of her thick auburn locks. Like a fountain, her hair springs from the confines of her hairband before neatly curling at the bottom like Corinthian columns.
I try to avert my gaze out of politeness but I cannot ignore her figure. Curved where it should be and slender everywhere else.
She turns back to me with a scarf that she says would better suit my eyes and I can only think my murky blue-grey eyes pale in comparison to her flickering lavender gaze.
I blurt out my gratitude as well as how beautiful she looks. Her eyes widen briefly before she laughs - a sound like a tender bell.
When I ask about her how she deals with admirers, as women often ask each other, she averts her eyes for a moment. As she turns back to me she plasters a smile filled with more pain than joy.
“Men: can’t live with them - can’t live without them!”
I watch her leave with a sway of her hips. She touches items from vendors with a cautious reverence, as if observing every detail, before gently placing it down. She moves with a slow grace as if ever step is calculated. I stand in wonder if such beauty and elegance is a blessing or a curse.