“If you’re not famous, you’re no one,” Scarlett Unger told herself.
The twenty-year-old—with limp, brown hair and acne ridden cheeks—stood in front of her full-length bedroom mirror. The bedroom fit a single bed and a dresser. A small, single-sized closet was positioned near the door. The lack of closet space didn’t bother her. She had never been able to afford an abundant wardrobe.
Many people saw her as a ‘down and outer’. Nothing more. It had been the story of her life. Money and riches had never been her reality; had never flowed her way. Others knew it. Many times she forced herself to forget the truth. Peoples’ perceptions of her didn’t matter. She didn’t have time to care. She was bigger than this town and its residents.
She was a tough, only-child. A survivor. Always had been. You had to be when your dad ditched the family. Six years old and she had found herself fatherless by a man who suddenly had no interest in raising a family. Throughout her teenage years Scarlett watched her mom work two—sometimes three—jobs just to make ends meet.
Scarlett had to make her life her own.
Staring at herself in the mirror, only clad in bra and panties, she analyzed her body. She was soft around the middle. A small paunch extended beyond her panties. Her arms had no definition. They were soft and flabby. The insides of her thighs touched. Her skin lacked the colour of a golden tan.
She leaned her face closer to the mirror. She ran a finger down her left cheek feeling the rough terrain of her acne. Alligator skin. That’s what a certain few would call her in high school.
A few zits speckled her upper-chest and shoulders.
She squeezed one between her fingers. A good one with a nice white head. It broke open excreting white pus. She squeezed another on her shoulders. It did the same thing.
Hundreds of days later she still had never forgotten the name and who called her it the most.
Marika Goldbath, a bitch who had relentlessly taunted Scarlett throughout high school, had invented the term. A few others then followed her lead. It was no surprise. When you had popularity, others easily followed you.
But Scarlett did have a taste of revenge before high school left her life. The very last day of Grade 12 Scarlett had brought a utility knife to school, one with a brand new blade and sharp enough to easily open up human flesh with one quick slice. When the bell had rung signaling freedom from the school day, Scarlett had paid Marika a pleasant visit (pleasant for Scarlett, not so much for Marika) in the girls’ bathroom. Just the two of them with the space to themselves. Scarlett had pushed Marika into a bathroom stall, dug the utility knife into her calf, and left the bullying bitch with a nice one inch gash on her left calf. Scarlett had covered the girl’s mouth to muffle the scream. Of course, Scarlett told her that if she said anything about their secret encounter, Scarlett would find her and would do a lot more than cut a one-inch gash. Spilling tears Marika promised to keep her mouth shut. And she had. No one ever questioned Scarlett about the bathroom moment.
She loved her name. It was the best part of her. It was a movie star’s name, a name that deserved attention.
I will have people’s attention, she thought.
She sat on her bed, her heavy thighs pressing into the soft comforter. She grabbed her iPhone and lay down. It was time to scroll. She loved scrolling. Four to five hours a day she scrolled and searched the Internet. Of course she was viewing the lives of celebrities, the rich and famous. They were living the life she was supposed to be living…correction, she would be living. Her future would not be her present. And with her level of fame she could buy whatever she wanted, whatever friends she wanted.
Remember, if you’re not famous, you’re no one. She repeated the thought over and over in her head.
She continued to scroll.
Working as a construction laborer had been Scarlett’s life ever since she was eighteen. Was it glamorous work for a girl like her; especially one with a name like Scarlett? No, but it paid well. Paid a heck of a lot better than bagging groceries at Marty’s Food Mart, a job she had worked a few hours a week throughout Grade 12.
Working in construction had come out of nowhere. After finishing a shift at the grocery store, her mom had mentioned that Carlton Construction (a growing company), was flooded with work and in dire need of staff, ranging from carpenters to laborers. Well, Scarlett wasn’t trained as a carpenter, but she could swing a shovel and get dirty with the best of them. She didn’t have a rail-thin physique. She had more meat and muscle on her bones.
The next day she had walked straight down to Carlton Construction’s main office and told them she was looking for work, and they’d be a bunch of damn idiots not to hire her. It had worked. The powers-that-be told her to show up at this address, this time, and for next Monday. A year and a half ago that’s exactly what she had done.
Did she love the work? No, but it wasn’t forever.
When her twenty-first birthday would come around, she’d have enough money set aside to travel to the big city of Los Angeles; ‘The City of Angels’, a city where she would make her mark. The fame would come pouring in. By her birthday she’d have a few months of living expenses in her bank account, giving her time to get her foot in the door, network, and make connections. Connections that would pave the way to fame and glory.
But, for the next three months, she’d have to keep digging in the mud.
“You swing that shovel real nice. Real nice.”
She knew the voice with its slimy tone. She’d heard it almost every work day for the past five months since Helix Brown, a twenty-five year old misogynistic twit, had started working for the company.
She turned to see the asshole with his long, shaggy hairstyle dripping out from under his construction hat. He was a skinny prick, not much more than skin and bone.
His eyes were locked on her and her only. A couple other guys were digging a few feet away from her, but Helix only had eyes for one. "You swing that shovel real nice. Real nice," he jeered.
Bullshit. Her shovel had nothing to do with it. It was how she looked in her jeans hugging her lower half. No doubt, he had been ogling her ass with his eyes behind her back.
Ten feet away he stood digging up the earth. She wanted him to come closer. Close enough so she could swing her shovel straight up between his legs. Hard enough that the edge of her shovel would slice his nut sack, splitting it right in two. He could bleed out right here on the dirt.
She called him Hormone Raging Helix, but never to his face. The name fit him well. He was sex hungry. She could see it. It was in his eyes, in his tone.
But Helix wasn’t stupid. He knew not to cross too far over the line. He stepped too far and Carlton Construction would be throwing him right out the door. No, he wasn’t completely stupid. Just almost.
Watching him, it felt like his eyes were licking her from head to toe.
Pathetic perv, she thought. No one else on the job she had issues with. No one but Hormone Raging Helix.
George, an older man, but a good man, stood nearby Scarlett and spoke up. “Hey Helix, why don’t you mind your own damn business and get back to work. Trenches don't dig themselves.”
The demoralizing sneer on Helix’s face—that he had reserved strictly for Scarlett—quickly evaporated. He did what he was told and went back to his digging.
Scarlett did the same. Only three more months, she reminded herself. Only three more.
After work Scarlett took the bus home. Driving herself wasn’t an option. There was only one car, and her mom needed it for work.
Scarlett stood in her tiny front yard staring at her house. Damn, it was small. It really was. No basement. No second floor. Simplest of floor plans: two bedrooms, one bathroom, kitchen, and a living room. Plain. Simple. Boring. Out-of-date fixtures. Nothing modern. For twenty years it had been the roof over her head. Her life, but a life that would be changed. A life that would go from her living in this very forgettable home to a mansion worthy of a star.
She noticed the car was gone, meaning her mom was probably at one of her two jobs. What jobs was her mom even working right now? She had no idea. The job situation changed up every so often, and the truth was, Scarlett didn’t really care. She had her own life to worry about.
Inside she took a shower, cleaning off all the dirt and grime from working in the mud. Brown, dirty water swirled down the drain. A few minutes later she was clean and pristine.
She dressed in grey sweatpants and a loose t-shirt that had a face of a cartoonish, smiling pig on it. Above the pig face there were the words ‘Randy’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill’. Under the pig face it had the quote—Best bacon in town!
Her mom had grown out of the t-shirt when she had added twenty pounds over the years. A hand-me-down t-shirt to Scarlett it had become.
Scarlett sat in the middle of her single bed with her phone in hand. She went online.
It was social media time. Every day was social media time.
She had been a bit of a teenage outlier having never created any social media accounts. No Snapchat, no Instagram, no YouTube, no Facebook account. Nothing. But she had to wake up. Over three billion people across the planet had social media accounts giving you access to three billion plus individuals. And when garnering fame, you had to start somewhere. And so her social media accounts were created.
And, if you’re not famous, you’re no one, she reminded herself again.
She would build her fame this way. Become social media famous, then move into reality T.V., and then onto the movie big screen.
She dived into her Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook accounts. Her spirits came crashing down.
Her follower numbers were still pitiful. The pictures of herself she had posted had barely any likes, barely any comments. One of her posts (a close up on her face) had a couple comments; neither of them kind. One of them screaming out in all caps—YOUR ZITS AND ALL WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A HORROR MOVIE!!
“Stupid fucker,” she murmured to herself.
Her mood only became worse when she looked at Marika’s accounts. She wasn’t connected to the pretty-faced-twenty-year-old, but when a profile was made public, all could easily see it.
Followers, likes, positive comments; Marika had them all.
Scarlett felt herself boiling, burning from the inside out. Marika was stealing Scarlett’s thunder, stealing attention that should be Scarlett’s.
Skin. Show some skin. Skin got people’s attention online.
Scarlett stripped down to her underwear. For the next two hours she posed for her phone camera. She positioned herself and angled the camera presenting herself in the best light. She sucked in her stomach the best she could to make herself appear thinner. She took photos from the side, never straight on. It was all little tricks of the trade. She had read about it in a modelling article a couple months ago.
Then after close to a hundred photos had been taken, she put her clothes back on and selected the top ten images; the top ten that would start to bring her the attention that she craved, the attention that a rising star, such as herself, deserved.
She started posting.
Scarlett did her best to ignore Helix with his raging hormones. It was a difficult task when you were sitting at a 4 x 8 foot rectangular table in the worksite trailer during your lunch break. It was a small space. On a construction worksite there was plenty of space to avoid the ones you wanted to avoid, but in a trailer, it was a far different situation.
They sat at opposite ends of the table. Things would have been fine if he hadn’t been staring at her far too much, or if it had been a respectable gaze—one that made her feel like a human being and not some quick screw—she would have felt at ease. But that wasn’t Hormone Raging Helix and it had never been. She had lost count of how many times he had given her the ‘sleazy eye’. How many other females did he give his trademark gaze?
Her uncomfortable lunch break situation did not help raise Scarlett’s battered spirits. Her day had started off poorly, very poorly. She had expected follows, likes, and comments to have flooded in from her beautiful photos she had posted. It had amounted to hardly anything. A couple of follows, a couple of likes, a comment that read—“THOSE TITS ARE HOT!”—followed by a flame emoji.
It was a pathetic way to start the day.
And now, she had to sit here with some sex hungry pervert giving her the eye over lunch.
“Hey Helix, why don’t you take a walk to the office trailer. Martin wanted to talk to you earlier,” George said.
“He can wait until I’m finished eating,” Helix shot back.
“Don’t keep the boss waiting. He’ll fire your ass.”
“Whatever,” Helix grumbled, even though he obliged, and got to his feet.
Scarlett was thankful for George sitting beside her. He knew Helix could have waited until after lunch break to go talk to the boss, but he wanted to give her some relief.
After Helix pushed the trailer door open in a huff and left, George looked at Scarlett. “At least you can relax through the rest of your lunch without dealing with his garbage.” He took a bite of his ham sandwich.
“Thanks,” Scarlett said quietly, in a space where she was the only female.
Scarlett ate the rest of her lunch not saying a word, only wondering if her social media followers were increasing.
Bloody hell!! she screamed inside her head.
Nothing. There was nothing. Barely any change. Only one more follower on her Instagram, which still had a pathetically low number.
If she couldn’t get her numbers up there would be no chance of fame, or who she was born to be.
But Marika was a whole different story. Her followers were still growing. They never seemed to stop growing.
Two years after Scarlett had put a blade to her leg, Marika Goldbath was still a problem stealing Scarlett’s thunder. Marika posts a photo of her in a bikini and she gets likes and comments telling her she looks gorgeous.
I do the same and I get a bunch of nothing, Scarlett vented to herself. I get one hornydickhead hitting me up.
She had a problem, and it went by the name of Marika.
Scarlett lay down on her bed. She closed her eyes trying to let sleep consume her. After twenty minutes of tossing and turning, her mind still raging, she sat up.
Screw it. She was going for a drive. She had to clear her mind.
Her mom was fast asleep. The car was easily accessible and available.
It was time to get away from this 'pathetic’ excuse for a home. For a little while at least.
The temperature outside was perfect. Not too warm, not too cool. Just right.
Scarlett could have driven around town, but why? She wanted to get away for a bit, not drive by the same old homes and buildings she had been passing since the day she was born.
Dirt roads and open fields surrounded the edges of town. There she would find tranquility from the absence of other human beings. It was exactly what she needed.
Scarlett drove the 2008 Ford Ikon, with its blotches of rust infecting the wheel wells and a few more spots here and there, down Milford Avenue straight out of town.
She let her mind wander. What would be her next move? What would garner her the attention from others that she so desired?
A kilometer out of town she took a right onto Road 32 East.
The gravel, wash-boarded surface rattled the car. It sounded like something under the hood was about to come loose. A piece of the engine. The shocks groaned and squealed as the car bounced up and down.
She slowed down a little. It wasn’t hard to hit a chewed up patch of gravel and lose control making her fly off the side of the road.
Something off in the distance made her slow down even more. Some kind of light cutting through the darkness. As she got closer it became obvious what it was. Headlights. Truck headlights.
Scarlett stopped her Ford Ikon near the light source. She took in the scene.
A Toyota truck lay on the side of the road, flipped upside down, wheels sticking straight up in the air. All of its lights were still on.
She stepped out of her car, leaving it running.
Walking over to the truck she thought she recognized it. Yes, it looked very familiar. She was sure she had seen it before.
She noticed skid marks that had chewed up the gravel leading directly to the truck. It was obvious the truck had lost control hard enough to flip right over.
Scarlett walked closer to the truck hearing its running engine.
The back windshield was mangled, the driver's side door caved in a little. It would cost a hefty penny to fix up the damage, if it was even worth it. Write off the piece of metal with four wheels and move on.
When she reached the driver’s side window she could see a single body slumped behind the wheel.
“You okay?” Scarlett called out.
It didn’t matter. It was kind of a stupid question. A smash up like this didn’t leave the occupant being ‘okay’.
She noticed more damage. The driver’s side window had been completely blown out. The front windshield was a spider web of cracks. Her Ford headlights made glass glitter in the grass.
And then she saw him. She did know this mangled truck. It belonged to the hormone raging man himself.
Helix was slumped over, lying against the truck’s hood. He hadn’t bothered to use his seatbelt. Blood was smeared over the left side of his face. Drops of red cover the cracked, front windshield. His eyes were closed. He was completely unconscious.
Was he alive?
Scarlett moved in closer getting down on her hands and knees, crawled a little into the truck, and leaned in close putting her ear an inch away from his mouth. Making a prognosis was easy enough. She could hear him breathing. It was shallow, but steady.
She pulled her phone from her pocket and was about to call for help, but stopped. The guy didn’t deserve her help. He hadn’t respected her since the day they first met. Why should she help him?
No, she had a better idea.
She pulled back a little. “Hey, you perverted sicko. How was your ride?” Then she chuckled and smiled, framed a photo of the two of them and took a picture.
She pulled away and noticed a few beer cans littering the inside of the truck. The pervert seemed to have had one too many before getting behind the wheel.
“You got what you deserved,” she told him.
She looked at her most recent photo. Good enough. It worked for her. Then she recorded a few seconds of video footage.
As for helping Helix Brown; screw it. Someone else would come by eventually.
She got back in her car and continued down the road.
The last two days of the week Scarlett didn’t see Helix. Her site superintendent had informed them that he was lying in the intensive care unit in Barlow General Hospital. He’d be back on his feet at some point, but it would be a slow recovery.
That sucked. Scarlett was hoping he would be paralyzed from the neck down. Not that it really mattered. Truth was, she would be gone and out of this city sooner than later.
She still had the photo from the accident on her phone.
When work let out for the day at 5:00 p.m. signaling the start of the weekend, Scarlett took the bus to Catherine Street, a block away from Findlay Drug Mart. She was in need of Prima shampoo. It was pricier, but it made her hair look silky smooth and vibrant. It was worth the extra few bucks. She had to look good for her online photos. Her future fans would have expectations.
Being a returning customer she knew the store layout well enough. Wasting no time, she headed straight for the hair care section.
At one end of the aisle she made a quick stop.
Scarlett found herself staring at her main nemesis from high school.
She watched Marika stock the shelves(the shampoo section to be specific), the young woman’s appearance as lovely as ever and wearing a Findlay Drug Mart work uniform.
Scarlett gave her competition a hard, disgruntled stare.
She hadn’t seen Marika, in real life, since the high school bathroom encounter. When did she start working at the drug store?
Scarlett watched her very carefully, keeping her distance.
A young customer (of the male persuasion) walked up to Marika. They had a laugh, shared a smile. The guy appeared to be intrigued by the drug mart staff member.
Another social media follower. Watching them, that’s the only thing Scarlett could think of. Marika had won another fan, and she didn’t even have to do anything. It was that easy.
Scarlett backed away disappearing out the store entrance. She could get her shampoo another time.
When she caught the bus home, she rode in the back, checking her social media feeds. She shouldn’t have. All it did was piss her off even more. Even showing more skin wasn’t bringing in the numbers. Things had to change.
She forgot about the social media world and put her phone away the rest of the ride home.
With only a bedside lamp illuminating the darkened bedroom, her bedroom window a layer of black on the outside, Scarlett lay on her bed, glued to her phone, scrolling through the realm of social media and its influencers. She scrolled through online profiles that were made public for the world to see. It was impossible not to envy the number of followers that some had obtained.
So, now what Scarlett? she asked herself. What was her next move? She had to make one. She had to leave for L.A. and the Hollywood scene being someone, not a no one.
The Nike brand slogan popped into her head—JUST DO IT!
Good enough. She found the photo and video of Helix busted up in his truck. She posted it to her social media feeds. That would get her some traction. Damage and train wrecks always fascinated people. Now, the name Scarlett Unger would start to get out there for the world to see.
But she needed more. This was only the beginning.
She needed someone else to help bring her into the spotlight.
Someone who she needed to stand face-to-face with once again.
Scarlett knew exactly where this specific individual lived—255 Ashton Street—and she expected her to be home.
It was close to 10:30 p.m. when she pulled up to the front of Marika’s house.
Scarlett’s mom had no idea she was here. Her mom had fallen asleep on the couch watching some slasher flick with the killer running around some apartment building cutting up its occupants. No doubt, it was grade B entertainment.
At the front door Scarlett didn’t hesitate to ring the doorbell. She was here for a purpose and one purpose only. She needed a popular girl at her side to get her social media ratings up. Sometimes one had to use people to get where one needed to go.
Of course, Marika might not be home, but Scarlett hoped that wouldn’t be the case.
The wait on the front door step was short.
Less than ten seconds after the ring of the bell Scarlett saw the door start to creak open. Low and behold she was greeted by exactly who she wanted to see.
Marika eyed her very cautiously.
That wasn’t a surprise. Scarlett did give the young woman a nice cut to her leg, one that would have left a permanent scar. And even though the cut was long ago, some memories always remained fresh.
“Hello, Marika,” Scarlett said. She forced herself to sound as pleasant as possible, but damn it was hard.
The young woman took a step back.
Don’t back away from me, Scarlett thought. Even so, Scarlett slid back a few inches creating a little more breathing room between the two.
“What do you want?” Marika asked, keeping her hand attached to the door handle.
She doesn’t trust me. Scarlett would have to layer on the kindness, put to use some acting skills. “You look amazing.” That was a crock. The girl was dressed in an old t-shirt and mid-thigh length shorts. Her hair was flat with no style. Still, Scarlett had to admit, Marika had great looking legs; tanned, taught skin, blemish free. No wonder why she could reel in the ‘followers’ and ‘likes’. Scarlett didn’t waste any time. “I just wanted to talk to you about working together. I can even pay you.”
“Get the hell away from my house.” She started to close the door.
Scarlett’s left hand clenched into a tight fist. You stuck up, arrogant…And then she snapped.
It didn’t take long for the authorities to arrive and put Scarlett in the police car with her hands cuffed behind her back.
All Marika had to do was listen to what Scarlett had to say. It was a few photos of the two of them. That’s all Scarlett had wanted; a few photos that she could post on her social media. So, when the front door had started to close it was game on.
Scarlett had never heard someone scream so loud in real life as when she grabbed a handful of Marika’s hair and started to pull. She had pulled her right outside. She had pulled her around the front yard giving her enemy what she deserved. And she had pulled out her phone taking video knowing a moment like this posted online was guaranteed views and comments.
Someone had made the call. It made sense. A twenty-year-old was screaming and being attacked in her front yard.
Scarlett had no idea how long it had taken to see flashing red and blue lights coming up Ashton Street. She had been too caught up in the moment.
Marika had been dragged around a little more by her hair until the cruiser had pulled up and two officers had quickly stepped out.
The petrified young woman had quickly taken the officers’ arrival as her cue to leave. She had sprinted back inside slamming the front door behind her. Scarlett was quickly placed into hand cuffs dropping her phone. At least she had been able to post a couple photos online.
During the drive to the station, Scarlett contemplated the moment. Was she sorry? Not a chance. Not even a drop of remorse.
Because garnering fame was no different from life itself. It was all just a game. You had to make your move, play your cards a certain way to get where you had to go. Move here. Move there. They were all human chess pieces on the board. To make it to the top one had to ‘play to win’.
She spoke up from the back seat of the police cruiser. “If you’re not famous, you’re no one.”
The officers didn’t say a thing. They didn’t even glance her way.
It didn’t matter.
They were idiots who didn’t understand.
All she could think about was how many views the video of Marika—being dragged around—would bring in. A tidal wave of excitement raged through Scarlett.
“If you’re not famous, you’re no one,” Scarlett reminded herself.