Johno, on the other hand… I was pretty sure the three suitcases he brought in contained the bulk of his assets. He had probably taken on this show just to have somewhere to live.
Tomorrow, the three women would arrive. They’d spaced us out by a day so they weren’t filming six move-ins at once. Emma, Marissa, and Eileen.
Emma, of course, I knew.
Marissa was an ultra-extreme environmentalist who had gained notoriety and followers when she had tied herself to the hood of a factory executive’s Mercedes in protest of emissions violations. She had tripled down on that fame with a line of environmentally-friendly health products, then (allegedly) blackmailed her biggest competitor with his nude pics and merged their companies to become one of the richest under-25 women in the world.
Eileen was an aspiring pop star who had self-produced one single that had gotten traction only because she was topless during the entire music video. Her tits were massive and looked to be hard as a brick, but some guys liked that shit. Johno had made a half-dozen comments about them yesterday and had rallied hard for a storyline that involved him motorboating them. The producers had seemed open to the idea.
Encouraged, I floated the killing of the Emma/Cash lovefest and got a resounding NO. Casma, they said patiently, was going to happen. Apparently, our entire season was focused on making it happen.
Casma was definitely NOT going to happen. Maybe on screen it was, but I was pretty certain my dislike of Emma was a two-way street and one that would only be strengthened by increasing proximity.
I rolled onto my side and reached along the floor until I found my phone. Unlocking it, I scrolled through my notifications, then gave in to temptation and pulled up Emma’s feed.
For months, her profile had had an obnoxious ‘follow back’ button, which I had studiously ignored. Now, it was gone. She had unfollowed me. Interesting and also, lame. I scrolled to her most recent photo, a clip of her on a paddleboard, looking over one shoulder to the camera and winking. It was a good pic. Brilliant blue water, interesting composition, strong placement and personality. The caption…
Soaking up the last rays of freedom before I’m sequestered in a house with five celebs. Please send donuts and tell @CashMitchell he can’t touch mine. #houseoffame #mtvstudios #suntanlife #beachbum
It did, as always, strange things when she mentioned my name. It wasn’t a unique thing. She tagged a lot of people in her posts. It was a good social media practice, and was usually a coordinated effort between accounts. This hadn’t been coordinated, and it was bullshit that she was trying to tie us together in this playful way as if we were friends.
I considered commenting but didn’t. Instead, I sent her a private message, the first between us.
Cash: No worries. I won’t touch anything that has to do with you.
I sent it, aware that it would go in her message requests folder, which was a garbage truck worth of crap for people like us. She would never see it, and it would get buried under a thousand other messages by morning, but it didn’t matter. I felt some resolution at sending the message. I had drawn a firm line between us, even if I was the only one who knew it.
My phone hummed, and I looked at it, surprised.
After the word was a praying hand emoji. I rolled my eyes.
Cash: Don’t give me that. You’d be all over me if I wanted you to.
Emma: Nah. Silver spoon pricks bore me.
I stared at the response, then typed and deleted a few different lines. I considered a weak ‘Whatever’ response but bailed out of that one, and now I had thirty seconds of dots on the screen and nothing to say and dammit, I should be better at this. I’d been called a rich prick my entire life. I should have a mountain of comebacks at the ready.
Cash: Just stay out of my way on this show. I don’t want you getting any ideas.
It was a little cruel, my insinuation that she would read truth into our fake relationship, but I was losing the upper hand in this volley, and I needed to exit this conversation on top.
Emma: no worries there. Glad we’re on the same page, and that my body and donuts are safe from groping.
I stared at it, again off-put and unsure of how to respond. A laughing-out-loud face? Was she just going to pretend like everything was fine between us?
I locked my phone and the time displayed on the home screen, right above the photo of me and Wesley. I stared at the image, then went into my settings and changed it to a different picture, this one a skyline shot of Malibu at sunset. That would be just what I needed, a zoomed-in camera angle of my phone, followed by a director’s cut to a confessional video of someone—probably Emma—waxing on about how I hid my brother in a facility because I was ashamed of him.