A Social Media Love Story #1
Can you #block a heart?
Fashion influencer, Winter Smith, portrays a picture-perfect lifestyle to her many followers. In reality, she’s plagued by anxiety, panic attacks, and the memories of an abusive past relationship. Winter’s best friend Mia, a health and fitness influencer, finally convinces her to get out of the house and attend the grand opening of a hipster-tech bowling alley in Portland, Oregon. There she meets the charming, tattoo-covered owner, Bo Blaine. No matter how hard she resists, Winter can’t deny the electricity between them.
When Bo Blaine, the youngest member of the powerful Pacific Northwest Blaine family, meets Winter Smith, he’s instantly infatuated. Their connection is undeniable, but when he tries to contact her again, he hits a brick wall. Email. Phone. App. Every social media platform. BLOCKED. Bo has worked hard to shake his “bad boy” reputation, but he knows that anything posted or written about him online will be there forever.
How can Bo convince Winter that he’s more than his digital footprint? And if he ever does get unblocked online and IRL, will the demons of both of their pasts derail what they could have together?
Release Date: December 8. 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance
~ A PINK SATIN ROMANCE ~
Winter Smith was in the midst of an anxiety storm, scrambling to find her mother’s heather gray Stanford University sweater with crisp maroon lettering. She borrowed it the prior week and hid it somewhere for safekeeping, knowing very well that her mother would have a complete meltdown if she discovered it wasn’t in her closet. Winter wondered if it could be considered a talent to hide an item so well from oneself that it stopped existing in reality altogether.
She looked at the clock. Her makeup had taken longer than expected, and the time blindsided her like a sneaky running back–or was it, fullback? She didn’t watch much football. It was already 9:30 p.m. 9:30! According to her extensive research into social marketing, the best time to post on Mondays was in the evening between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. She’d already posted a few inspiring quotes to Nanogram and Twitter, and uploaded some workout clips to all the platforms, but she still had #ClassicStyleMondays to post to StyleSlap, the app that was singlehandedly paying for her rent.
It was that damn sinus infection that made her lay around all day. She wanted to kick herself for shaking hands and fist bumping with that germ-infested fraternity two days before at the mall. But they were pushy and a little drunk. Couldn’t risk the online trash talking that would occur if she had turned a cold shoulder to the brotherly testosterone. Wouldn’t be too good for her girl next door brand. To tell the truth, they were actually really sweet guys and she enjoyed meeting them. So, whatever.
She finally found the sweater in her closet, neatly folded behind a box of Polar Bear Smile Teeth Whitening Strips. Thankfully, she’d already posted that month’s teeth advertisement, consisting of a seemingly candid yet overly set up scene that conveyed how happy she was to have “teeth as white as a polar bear.” It had become one of her silliest posts to produce.
The comments were usually filled with people pointing out that polar bears don’t exactly have the whitest teeth, so why would they use the product? One time she stated in a video that the strips would make teeth as white as a polar bear’s fur, and people replied with hilarious photos and gifs of dirty, sometimes even yellow, polar bears. It was kind of an inside joke with her and her fans.
She held out the pristine, oversized, V-neck sweater, and for a brief moment, imagined her mother as a college student, happily walking through campus, probably getting checked out by all the boys, with her whole life ahead of her. Winter’s stomach did a quick somersault as she realized her mother’s actual future consisted of wine hangovers and a permanent scowl that silently signaled her lifetime of regrets to the world.
10:00 p.m. was fast approaching. She threw on the sweater over a stark white camisole, carefully making sure not to mess up the top half of her hair, which was braided and pinned into a crown. She pulled down one side of the sweater so her right shoulder and camisole strap peaked out.
Despite feeling icky, and having zero energy to shower, Winter’s hair somehow looked amazing. Her dark hair was shiny and boasted natural looking waves. In reality, it was all thanks to a magic recipe consisting of a three-day old salon blowout and forgetting to sleep in a silk cap the previous night. Though she looked like she had just walked off a shampoo commercial, her nose was so red it could light Santa’s sleigh in a snowstorm. After sneezing five times in a row, she trudged through onset lightheadedness to exchange her comfy cotton unicorn pajama bottoms with a short denim skirt and white and blue tube socks. She took one more glance in her bedroom mirror, winced at the blotchy mess staring back at her, then turned on the ring light and set her phone on the tripod.
Usually, she would shoot at some interesting location or in some elaborate scene she set up in her one bedroom bungalow, but due to her poor health, all she could manage was a backdrop of a string of cactus lights, haphazardly taped to the wall.
Taking a deep breath and waiting for the tickling sensation of another potential sneeze to pass, she set the timer and did a variety of poses, all the while making sure her face was turned away from the camera. She repeated this process about thirty times before she was happy with only one shot that she was actually kinda iffy about but too tired to continue. Just like that, her perfect posture morphed into a slouch.
She turned off the ring light, grabbed her phone, and stumbled over to her bed, landing with her best impression of a fainting damsel in distress, half drama queen, half genuinely feeling miserable. Her eyes felt heavier and heavier the second her head hit that pink satin pillow, and just as she was about to float off to dream island, her five-minute Monday posting warning timer went off.
With a huff, she enhanced the saturation in her chosen photo making the gray sweater, crimson letters, white and blue socks, and green back lights pop and edited out any imperfections. That bruise on her left knee? Click, click, gone! That scuff mark on the wall behind her? Click, click, sayonara, sucker! If this career doesn’t pan out, she thought, I could definitely be a photo editor or something.
Finally, she clicked Post to StyleSlap and her latest creation was up. Within a few seconds, her phone buzzed with notifications. One comment read: “I love your outfit! Where can I buy it?” and it made Winter realize she forgot the description. She quickly edited in the hashtag #ClassicStyleMondays and the caption: Mama’s favorite sweater from college. Shhh! (Shh emoji) Don’t tell her I borrowed it. XOXO, Winter.
* * *
Winter slept from last night’s wild posting party (insert sarcasm here), to 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Immediately, she looked at her phone, sadly displaying the red battery icon. Her throwback outfit was a hit, with 90,389 love slaps. Somehow, it had already been blogged about, and included in a couple style articles. One short read, for example, referenced Winter’s post in a list of the best and easiest throwback styles of the year. They even talked about the history of hand-me-down, vintage, and repurposed fashion.
How do these things get published so fast? Are the writers working all night? Or is it just some algorithm creating an article from the newest popular postings? The usual questions swirled in her mind whenever she had that kind of good feedback from a style she shared, though she was grateful for the phenomenon getting her brand out to more people.
She pulled the curtains and opened the window. The sounds of life streamed in: birds chirping, kids playing, cars honking, trees shaking their branch fists at the random gusts of wind. Despite her name, fall was one of her favorite seasons. Yes, it rained a lot in Tigard, Oregon, but on dry days it was a comfortable temperature, not too hot nor too cold. Well... usually. It could get a little chilly at night, but nothing a cute sweater, maybe layered with a light jacket, couldn’t fix. The changing colors of the leaves reminded her of the long drives she would take with her mother as a kid, both happy and in awe of the various shades of reds, oranges, and yellows that lined the streets.
Winter made some oatmeal and poured it into her new white, pink, and gold cat-shaped bowl that a fan sent to her P.O. Box. She sliced a half banana and arranged each slice on the oatmeal to look like a smiling face. She placed it on the kitchen counter, under the natural light glow of the kitchen window. Then she took a photo...and another one... and there it was. She posted the photo to Nanogram with the caption Starting the day off right, adding a few breakfast worthy hashtags before sitting down to eat.
Though she had only been living on her own for six months, Winter felt loneliness engulf her like an unwanted hug. She blew her nose, realizing that her cold was actually kind of going away, and pictured Lyle’s smile in her head. Of course, that smile soon faded, replaced by his usual condescending raised eyebrows and blank stare. She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. Why do I always think about him every morning? she thought.
Their breakup marked a very bad time in her life. She was working as a receptionist for his law firm and was promptly fired without cause. Winter knew it was wrongful termination, you can’t fire someone for breaking up with you, but she just wanted to get away and not think about her ex again. Suing the firm would probably be a long battle that she was not ready to take on. Besides, there was no telling what Lyle was capable of after he confronted her that last night for merely going to a bar with her coworkers. That was the bitter icing on the poisonous cake that was their relationship. Ugh! Stop thinking about him, Winter! she screamed silently. He’s not worth your time.
As she rinsed her cat bowl in the sink and put it in the dishwater, her thoughts had shifted to figuring out the next post she was going to put up.
Ooh oh oh oh
That’s the way it goes
Ooh oh oh oh
Dancing on your toes
Winter’s current favorite indie song woke her out of her morning trance, and her phone vibrated as it displayed a gif of a blood-red glider butterfly fluttering its wings. She accepted the video call and a beautiful, oval-faced, pony-tailed redhead with Cupid’s bow shaped lips, and a Snow White complexion, appeared on the screen. She was riding a stationary bike, and her head bobbed from side to side as she pedaled.
“Hey, girl. Saw the morning post. Breakfast looks goooood,” said Mia, slightly out of breath, “Did you make me a bowl?”
“If you wanna stop by,” said Winter, very well knowing the answer.
“You know I can’t. But I miss you. You look like you’re feeling better.”
“Yeah, I think I—”
“Okay then,” Mia seemed to pedal faster. “We’re getting together tonight.”
“Oh, I’d love to, Mia, but I have to work on my next post and—”
“Dude, I’m sorry I’m cutting you off a lot, but I already know the crap you’re about to spew and I really don’t want to hear it. Besides, your post last night was scorching, sweltering—no—blistering hot.”
“If I didn’t love you so much,” Mia continued, “I’d be jealous of that freakin’ post.”
“Yeah, right. I envy your post feed,” said Winter. “You have this cool, physical and mental health vibe going on. I mostly just have clothes and food and fake scenes I set up.” She tried to mask the melancholy in her voice, symptoms of that bad taste in her mouth she got whenever she let thoughts about Lyle creep in.
“You’re so clueless and smart at the same time. It’s so damn cute.”
“Um, okay. I’ll take that.”
“So about tonight.”
“Mia, honestly I’d love to hang but I have to start thinking about my next few promos and I’m already kinda stressing about it.”
“Only you would stress about something like that.” Mia breathed harder. “Look at me, I’m bombarded with people wanting to pay me more money,” she said in a mocking tone.
Winter sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I should be grateful, just like that quote you posted last week. I’m getting really sick of you being right all the time.”
“So, what do you have? What kind of products?”
“Uh, I got a fake tan lotion.”
“Not gonna work. Go on.”
“And I have this detox system.”
Mia made a buzzer sound. “What else you got?”
“I have this LED light-up skirt from this new designer.”
“Ding ding dong! We have a winner! How much are you getting paid?”
“Oh, that one was a freebie. He’s still in design school but he’s so talented.”
“’Kay cool. The LED skirt will be perfect for where we’re going, and Jeremiah and I can help you take another blistering photo.”
Winter’s nose started to run again, and she blotted it with her breakfast napkin. “Blistering is a little too hot for my taste.”
“Well, there’s this new, upscale hipster bowling place that opened up at the top of the hill and you are going, girl.”
“Bowling? In a skirt?”
“Hecccks, yeah. It’ll show how classy Winter Smith can look, even in a bowling alley.”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want me and Jeremiah to give you an intervention? You’ve been more and more withdrawn since you left Lyle.”
“Sorry about that,” Winter said quietly.
“Don’t be sorry, just be aware of it. You’re so talented and gorgeous, you deserve to have a life too. You can’t hide behind work forever.” Mia stopped pedaling and wiped her face with a towel.
Winter thought for a second. She turned the phone away so she could put all her effort into stopping herself from crying, without an audience. Then she took another deep breath before turning the phone back.
“What did I ever do to deserve you as a friend, Mia? You’re like a walking, talking, inspirational meme.”
Mia stood up and shrugged. “You were born? I don’t know.” She put the phone close to her face for dramatic effect. “But what I do know is that you’re going out with us tonight. And I’m gonna kick your butt on the lane. Like, I’m gonna get a lot of holes in one.”
Winter chuckled. “Oh, yeah? Wait, don’t you mean you’ll get a lot of strikes?”
“You heard me,” Mia said. “Meet us at the bottom of Tram 2 at 7:00 p.m., okay?”
With that, Mia winked, her naturally long, dark auburn eyelashes glistening with sweat. Then she morphed into the words: Video Call Ended.
Winter looked over at her mint green sofa. Sprawled across it were more packages she picked up from her P.O. Box and a black skirt in a clear garment bag laying haphazardly across the sofa arm rest. She stared at it, trying to remember the last night she went out without Lyle. The last time she allowed herself to have fun. The last time she truly smiled. And she decided that tonight is finally the night.