Rosie’s life as an up-and-coming YouTuber is hectic, filled with long days and hard work, fuelled by caffeine and desperation. When she starts to forget where she’s been, she thinks she’s pushed herself too far. But is something sinister at play?
Content warnings: blood.
Rosie was late. She wasn’t sure how it happened; one minute she’d been taking photos of crockery and the next she was twenty minutes behind schedule and there were works on the line and she couldn’t find matching shoes. A chaotic wardrobe is a side effect of the job, she told herself. The crowd will love that I’m running late because I couldn’t find my shoes.
When she arrived at the studio, more than slightly sticky, she found a runner or a production assistant or whatever they were called, standing in reception with a coffee. ‘Rosie Saint James,’ she panted. ‘Here for the interview with Marcella for the—the fashion week series. Ridiculously Rosie,’ she added after a moment. She didn’t want to have to say ‘the YouTuber.’ Even after seven years of vlogging and two as a full-time content creator, she wasn’t completely comfortable with telling people what she did for a living. ‘I’m so sorry I’m late,’ she continued. ‘The—the trains were up the shoot, and my shoes—’ she nodded down at her silver loafers, as though they’d back her up.
‘Um, Miss Saint James?’
‘Yes,’ Rosie nodded. She should have realised they’d want ID. She dug about in her bag, rummaging through tissues and makeup samples and food wrappers. It wasn’t until she retrieved her purse and driving licence that she realised the runner was still talking.
‘We’ve already filmed with you today.’
‘I took you through about two hours ago, you just finished your slot and left.’ The assistant held up a clipboard. There was Rosie’s handwriting, signing in earlier that morning and signing out twenty minutes ago.
‘Are you all right? Do you need to sit down? You look a bit—’
‘No, no, I’m fine—um, thanks.’
Back outside, Rosie found a park bench and took several deep breaths. She hadn’t gone into the studio to film with Marcella Whatsherface for fashion week. Had she? God, this, this was what happened when you worked eighteen-hour days. It was her own fault. This sort of thing always happened when she had too many deadlines due, especially when her mum was having a flare up. Too much caffeine, not enough proper food, no fresh air from one day to the next. She’d forgotten her house address once and her brother had to pick her up. She rubbed her temples, trying to remember her meditation exercises. A professional fuck up of these proportions had to be a sign from the universe. She was going to go home, take the rest of the day off and refuse to feel guilty about it.
On her way back, she stopped at that tiny artisanal coffee place, the one with the cute barista. She decided that she would buy anything on the menu that looked remotely appetising and not photograph any of it.
‘Oh, hey again!’ There was the barista, smiling over the counter. Rosie could never remember her name, but she’d asked it enough times that to ask again would be awkward. Jasmine? It might have been Jasmine.
‘Hi. Could I get, um… a double hot chocolate with almond milk, a fudge brownie and… what is that?’
Jasmine looked at where Rosie was pointing. ‘A blueberry turnover.’
‘One of those too, please. To go. Uh, here’s my mug.’
‘Having a hard day?’ Jasmine asked as she worked.
‘About the same as usual,’ Rosie shrugged. ‘It’s feast or famine when you’re self-employed, isn’t it? I’m lucky to be this busy.’
‘Really? Two brownies in one morning, I’d say that constitutes a solid eight on the difficult day scale.’
‘Wait, what?’ Rosie’s hand froze over the card machine.
‘You were in here earlier.’ Jasmine blinked. ‘About an hour ago? One medium cappuccino and a fudge brownie.’
‘Right. Right!’ Rosie tapped her card and gathered up her goods. ‘Thanks for this. Um. See you later.’
‘If you come in a third time, you’ll have to start calling ahead—’ Rosie was already out the door.
There was no way she’d stopped at the café already today. She just hadn’t. Struck with inspiration, she pulled out her phone and brought up her banking app.
One pending transaction for The Miniature Coffee Pot, Ltd.
Another pending transaction for The Miniature Coffee Pot, Ltd.
By the time Rosie made it home, she had decided on two potential causes. One, she was genuinely losing her mind and ought to see a psychiatrist about putting a name to whatever she was suffering from. Two, she was more overworked than she’d realised, and the exhaustion was taking its toll on her faculties. Either way, she wanted a bath and several episodes of Schitt’s Creek while she decided how to proceed.
The house was quiet when she got in. Rosie’s mother was out with one of the aunts, or Rosie’s grandmother, or the support group. Another thing Rosie couldn’t remember, although she was sure they’d had a conversation about it the evening before. Her brother wouldn’t be home from college for hours. Dumping her shoes in the hall, she carried the food upstairs and left it on her dresser while she dug out her fanciest bath salts.
Down the passage, someone flushed the toilet.
Rosie froze. Burglarsmurderersmumsbackearly. She took a deep breath. Mum’s back early, she assured herself. She often ran a bath in the middle of the day when her leg was playing up. The front door had been locked, though, hadn’t it? And Mum’s jacket was gone from the hook.
Rosie scanned her room for methods of self-defence. She settled on a stray dumbbell and a biro, gathered one in each hand and edged into the hall. ‘Hello?’ she called.
The bathroom door opened. She could see her reflection in the mirror cabinet, hair pulled up in a bun for her bath, dressing gown on.
Rosie wasn’t wearing her hair in a bun. She was still in her day clothes. The bathroom mirror wasn’t visible from the hall.
‘Oh, hi Rosie!’
Rosie swung the dumbbell.
‘Hey! That’s rude.’
Oh god. It was worse than she thought. She was absolutely losing her marbles. She was down to one marble.
‘You’re not going mad.’
‘You’re not going mad. Sit down, sweetie, you’re turning green. Take a breath and count to eleven.’
Count to eleven. That’s what Rosie and her brother used to do, when their mum was breaking up their fights. Sit down and count to eleven. Right, who started it? Rosie leant on the wall and rubbed her eyes. When she opened them, she was still standing in the hallway wearing her dressing gown. That could not be right. Rosie’s dressing gown was hanging from her bedroom doorknob. She could see it from here. She was wearing her favourite earrings, too, the diamond studs from her Mejuri partnership. Rosie reached up and rubbed her earlobe. The studs were still in her ears. So what—
‘You haven’t twigged it, have you? I can’t believe how slow you are sometimes.’
Rosie tried to focus on the person talking. It was her. Her face. Her earrings, the gross bump on her nose from that godawful piercer she shouldn’t have trusted, her mousy hair with the home-applied highlights. She forced herself to look properly, searching for more confirmation. There, on her bare ankle, was the scar from the escalator when she was seven. There was the burgundy nail polish she’d applied the other day.
Wait. This Rosie was wearing a nose stud, diamante to match the earrings. This Rosie had a tattoo next to that ankle scar, some sort of Latin script. This Rosie’s toenails were neatly painted, professionally painted. Rosie had never done that good a job herself.
‘I’m hallucinating,’ Rosie said after a moment.
‘Not quite, pumpkin. Try again.’
Rosie squinted. This Rosie’s dressing gown was clean and fluffy. Hers, the one on the door, had a tea stain on it. This Rosie’s legs looked smooth and hair-free. Hers were stubbly and contained no less than three plasters from her last attempt to get to grips with a safety razor.
‘This should help.’ Rosie—Other Rosie—pulled her phone from her dressing gown and handed it to Rosie. It was the interview from this morning, already on Marcella’s social media.
There she was, chatting to the camera, relaxed as anything. The audio was down, but Rosie could see herself gesticulating, pointing down to her shoes and laughing. The audience laughed, and so did Marcella.
‘One of fashion’s brightest young commentators,’ Marcella told the audience. ‘Give it up for Ridiculously Rosie!’ The camera panned round and Rosie smiled at the camera. Her teeth were straighter than normal, Rosie was sure of it. Hang on. Was she—was she also thinner?
‘Definitely an improvement, right?’ Other Rosie took the phone back and giggled. She had changed, into a pair of jeans Rosie had thrifted the week before, and a jumper she’d never really liked. ‘You knew you couldn’t carry off that blazer without toning up.’
Rosie sank down onto the hall carpet. She dug her fingernails into the crook of her elbow until they drew blood. You weren’t meant to feel pain when you were asleep, were you?
Other Rosie waved her phone, texting efficiently. ‘Oh, I got Jasmine’s number. And I remembered her name. It’s Jacqueline. We’re doing drinks on Thursday.’
Rosie peered up, her gaze snagging on her jumper. It was less bobbly on this Rosie, less saggy. It looked cute, actually. So did the jeans. Rosie was going to pass them on, because they gave her a muffin top, but this Rosie pulled them off. Even her socks seemed to match the rest of the outfit.
Rosie went into her bedroom, confirmed that the thrifted jeans were still in their bag, and picked up her own phone. She pulled up the interview, checking for herself it was live. Holy shit. A hundred thousand views on YouTube alone. In, what, two hours? The Marcella effect was real. Rosie swiped to her Instagram. There she was. Her latest post was a photo with Marcella in the dressing room, her blazer as well fitting as in the video, the nose stud glinting, her hair sleek and neat. The caption read:
Such a pleasure to talk sustainable fashion and feminism with @marcellasophia this morning! Check out the interview on her channel and stay tuned for BTS clips on my next vlog xxx
It was followed with a pink heart emoji, a dove emoji and several well-performing hashtags.
It was Rosie’s most-liked Instagram post ever. Several verified users had commented. Marcella herself, calling Rosie ‘a dove,’ plus a couple of beauty influencers and a sustainable fashion blogger. Rosie had been following all of them for years. None had ever commented on one of her posts until now.
The blood on Rosie’s arm oozed down her wrist, congealing. She wiped it absently with a piece of her blouse and scrolled to her last post before that, one she remembered making. This Rosie was also glossy and toned, in a still from her latest vlog.
It had taken Rosie two hours to prep for that video, and five to edit it. She was wearing Spanx, false eyelashes, tinted moisturiser and several layers of Photoshop. She swiped to the post before that: a selfie taken in the local park. It had taken sixty attempts to get the lighting and the angle right, and even then she’d added a filter.
The Rosie in the photograph winked and blew a kiss.
Rosie, Other Rosie, leaned around the bedroom door and patted Rosie on the head. ‘Stay here, sweet pea, and eat those pastries before they go cold. You can’t really afford all the sugar, but I can, and I’ll be the one in the photographs from now on, so…by the way, you’re trending on Twitter for clapping back at Piers Morgan over something to do with climate change. Wait, no, I’m trending on Twitter.’
Rosie stood on her bedroom carpet, amongst piles of shoes and camera equipment, fiddling with her shirt. She rubbed the crusty blood residue on her arm. This was going to stain terri—
Her blouse was completely clean.
Downstairs, the front door clattered open. She assumed Other Rosie was heading out to take photos, or scout locations for vlogs. That had been her plan for the rest of the day. It wasn’t until she crept onto the landing that she realised her mum was home.
‘Hello, Rosie Ray,’ she heard her mother say. ‘How was the interview?’
‘Brilliant! Oh, Mum, you don’t need to carry those bags, let me do it—go and lie down. Have a sleep before dinner.’
Dinner with Grandma. How had Rosie forgotten? She knew they’d had a conversation about Grandma recently. She’d been supposed to get groceries on the way home, but she’d told Mum she had to go location scouting and it was easier if she just went.
Rosie heard her mother shuffle up the stairs before she registered what that meant. How was she supposed to explain—?
‘Hi, Mum,’ she said, leaning back into the wall to let her mother pass by. ‘Look, this is weird, but—’
‘You couldn’t put the kettle on, Rosie, could you?’ her mother called down the stairs. ‘I got more tea bags.’ She made for her bedroom, wincing. ‘And bring me a hot compress, if you wouldn’t mind? This leg.’
‘Of course, Mum, I’ll—’ Rosie stopped breathing. Her mother was leaning on the doorframe, pulling her ‘I’m in pain’ face.
Her arm had gone straight through Rosie.
‘Mum? Aisling. Mum.’ Rosie snapped her fingers in front of her mother’s face. Her mother yawned and padded into her bedroom, closing the door behind her.
‘Mum!’ Rosie threw her phone at the wall.
It did not make a sound.
Rosie careened down the stairs, throwing herself into the kitchen. Other Rosie was unpacking bags, humming.
‘What did you do? How are you doing—doing—’ Rosie realised she was crying, but as she wiped her tears away, they evaporated.
‘Hm? I’m sorry, sweet pea, I can’t really hear you over the kettle. You’re fading out.’
Rosie threw a mug at Other Rosie’s head. Or rather, she tried to. She couldn’t pick it up.
‘What. Did. You. Do?’
‘Nothing. I did nothing at all. All this, Rosie Ray, was your hard work.’
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Copyright © 2021 by Francesca Burke
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