A Short Story
The newspapers called it the Robin Thicke Flash Mob Tragedy at Stonestown Mall, which wasn’t very clever but it adequately told the story in one headline. I was too young to understand when it happened, summer of 2013, but I came to know the story as well as your average Stonestownian.
Fifty girls from the local high school, including the whole cheerleading squad, planned a flash mob at the mall in hopes of creating a viral YouTube sensation for the upcoming season. The girls danced to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke—apparently the smash hit of that time—right there amid the unsuspecting shoppers, on the third floor pedestrian bridge between Baby Gap and Cinnabon. The walkway collapsed and all but 6 of the girls fell to their deaths. The town mourned, reporters flew in, and Robin Thicke wore a red ribbon symbolizing Stonestown on his lapel for the rest of his world tour.
That’s what I knew of the story, and it wasn’t until my coffee date with Delilah that I learned the more intimate details, the insights that only a woman who was a teenager during that time could reveal.
“The real video surfaced online weeks later,” said Delilah in the center of the food court. “It was taken down in minutes. But I saw it.”
“No way,” I said.
“Remember the captain of the cheer team, Summer?”
“I think so.” I remembered clearly just one photo from the news stories, a 17-year old blonde girl. As a six-year old, I thought she was the most beautiful girl on television.
“Summer survived, poor girl. Everyone blamed her,” continued Delilah. “She organized the flash mob, you know.”
“I heard she changed her name and works at a magazine in New York now.”
Delilah swirled her black coffee. “Yes, I heard the same.”
I was very attracted to Delilah. She had straight black hair, mysterious deep-set eyes, and her makeup was always done up perfect. She worked at Sephora, just two stores down from where I worked, Wetzel’s Pretzels. Delilah must have been ten years older than me. I had never dated an older woman and didn’t know what to talk about, so I was glad when she chose the conversation.
“Can you imagine the survivor’s guilt Summer must have felt,” said Delilah. “Being solely responsible for the death of her friends.”
“The guilt. It must’ve eaten her alive.”
I took a sip of my tea. “So, you went to Stonestown High?”
“A Chipmunk,” I said. “Your wrestling team beat—”
“Do you remember Bonnie Massey?” asked Delilah. “A lot of the national media focused on Bonnie. She was the youngest victim, a freshman. Such a sweet girl. They said Bonnie didn’t want to join the flash mob, but Summer made her do it.”
“I remember something from The Today Show.”
“You’re right.” Delilah looked at her smart watch. Within seconds, she had a page up. “Look—there’s Bonnie’s picture next to Matt Lauer. Wasn’t she pretty?”
Bonnie was a pale, fragile-looking ginger with thin lips and round green eyes. I told Delilah that she was very photogenic.
“To die a 14-year old girl,” said Delilah. “Before ever going on a first date with a boy, kissing a boy, falling in love with a boy. Oh, Bonnie!”
I knew driving home that Delilah was crazy. But when she suggested the next day we go on a second date, I agreed. Truth be told, I didn’t find her any less attractive and the idea of sleeping with her was still more than enough to justify the strange conversation.
But our second date was fantastic. We had normal, cheerful conversation and Delilah seemed determined to get to know me. She must have asked me a hundred questions—what my favorite movie was, how I liked college, what kind of girls I usually dated—and she did not once bring up the flash mob. Delilah and I held hands after dinner. At the end of the date, beneath a street lamp outside Build-A-Bear, we kissed.
Our third date was the very next night. We went to the cinema inside the mall to watch Fast and Furious 11. Once the lights went out, we couldn’t keep our hands off one another. Things got hot and heavy quick, and before the final race scene in Mumbai, Delilah suggested we get out of there.
As we walked through the empty mall, I knew I was taking a chance but I asked anyway. “Should I drive us home?”
“I’ve got an idea.” Delilah took my hand. “Come with me.”
Behind all the stores was a labyrinth of hallways, storage facilities and employee breakrooms. Delilah used her manager key to enter the secret maze and after a few lefts and rights, she led me to the third floor main breakroom. She went straight into the restroom, closing the door behind her. I waited outside.
After a minute, she unlocked the door.
“Come in,” whispered Delilah.
I stepped into the restroom, nervous. The lights were off.
She turned on the lights. Delilah stood there holding a black wig in her hand. Her real hair was blonde, cropped short. On the mirror, pink lipstick read:
HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU?
I smiled and nodded, walking slowly closer. She looked so different with blonde hair, almost like another person. But as I got close, she looked familiar.
“Wait a second—Summer?”
The lights went out again.
“What do you think, Bonnie?” asked Delilah in the dark. “Is this boy hot enough for you?”
The lights came back on. There stood Bonnie Massey. She looked just like she did in the picture, once you got past the blood. A fresh split lined the side of her head and bruises highlighted the cuts on her face. On the mirror, the pink lipstick now read:
“I’m a good friend aren’t I, Bonnie?” asked Delilah. “He’s all yours.”
Bonnie smiled shyly and took a step toward me.
I turned to Delilah, who simply winked and put her black wig back on. The lights turned off, the door closed and a cold hand touched mine.
Vincent Chu is a writer from the Bay Area. His short stories have appeared in the East Bay Review, WhiskeyPaper, Tethered by Letters Quarterly Journal, Bookends Review and Saturday Night Reader. He currently lives in Cologne, Germany. You can find more of his work at vincentchufiction.tumblr.com.