“Stalking” Extract from Take Two: Elektra’s mum gets stuck into a bit of social media stalking of Archie… This is shocking behaviour and she probably wouldn't have got away with it if it hadnt been for the blackmail...
‘Can we follow him?’
‘What do you mean?’ I had a troubling vision of my mum watching Archie from behind a bush. Now I came to think about it, that wasn’t a vision, it was a memory.
‘On Facebook or whatever that other one is with all the pictures.’
‘Instagram?’ ‘Yes, that thing.’ ‘No, we can’t stalk Archie online. Obviously.’ ‘Moss showed me her boyfriend.’ That was true, and now my mum was over-invested in Moss and Torr’s relationship (whatever that was).
‘Come on, it’ll be fun.’ She looked at the laptop greedily.
‘No.’ But I knew I was weakening. I couldn’t rule out the risk she’d do it on her own if I kept saying no. Also Archie was undeniably fit and a small bit of me did want to show her.
‘And I’d be very worried about you going out to meet a near stranger.’
‘Come on! Archie doesn’t look like an axe murderer, does he?’
‘It was hard to get a clear picture of him as he was so busy kissing you under our tree.’ This was painful. ‘I really want to.’ She was literally begging to be allowed to stalk a sixteen-year-old boy.
‘No.’ I held firm.
‘That’s a shame. Well, I suppose I’ll see him the next time he wants to come over and enjoy our garden. I’ll make an effort to get to know him properly. Maybe tell him that story about the time you and Moss hid—’
‘Are you blackmailing me?’
‘No. I would be blackmailing you if, to take a random example, I were to send him that photo of you from Halloween last year. Yes, the spider costume one . . . the dancing spider costume one.’ It was official: my mother was blackmailing me. No wonder the production company wanted to run extensive checks before accepting her as a chaperone. I know that you’re not meant to give into blackmail and that it always ends badly with bankruptcy or murder or something, but that photo was really bad.
I gave in. I negotiated with terrorists.
Facebook or Instagram? I had a sudden blank about what was on either. I’d probably spent more time stalking Archie than I had on all of my coursework combined but I couldn’t remember anything. I opened up the laptop very nervously. Archie’s Facebook profile picture was Mum- friendly; his hair looked like it had been polished by a keen butler and he had a healthy glow (possibly because he was at a party rather than doing a wholesome outdoor activity, but she didn’t have to know that).
‘Ooooh, I like his jumper.’ Of course Mum liked his jumper – it was a cricket jumper. The dream. ‘Next.’ His only other profile picture was safe too, not least because it had been taken when he was about ten. What is it with boys failing to keep up with their public relations? I made to close the laptop lid. ‘Let’s look at his tagged photos?’
There was no good explanation for how Mum could have become this Facebook-savvy. I blamed Moss. But I hadn’t given Archie’s perfection enough credit. The first twenty-odd photos were of him winning football matches. There was one of him filming in period costume, which was basically what my mum thought boys should wear twenty- four seven anyway. One of him smiling slightly manically for a school prospectus – which his friend had posted with a caption so ironic that my mum commented on how nice it was that Archie had such supportive friends. I was mildly surprised that there weren’t any pictures of Archie saving starving children or single-handedly diffusing political tensions in the Middle East. I was beginning to worry that instead of being banned from ever seeing Archie-the-delinquent again, I was going to end up pressured into an early marriage so I could produce a stable of perfectly behaved grandchildren. Oh, God. My relief was premature. I tried to flick over one of Archie buried under about seven girls. Next.
‘Wait, what was that?’
‘Nothing, nothing,’ I squeaked, flicking as fast as I could. Why were there suddenly no safe football photos for me to stop on? Oh no, this one was Archie and Talia. How could I have forgotten this was here?
‘Is that Talia?’ Mum gasped, as if I’d shown her a picture of the Dalai Lama kicking a kitten to death. And how could she identify Talia? Literally all you could see was a blow-dry and a YSL shoulder bag. ‘Archie snogged Talia?’
‘Can you please never say snog again?’ ‘But I thought you were snogging Archie?’ ‘Oh my God, can you please never say any part of that sentence again?’
‘Has Archie cheated on you?’ ‘Firstly, me and Archie are not officially going out.’
‘Secondly, this happened months ago.’
She looked sceptical. ‘Well, I hope you’re going to ask him about it.’ I was not going to ask him about it. ‘Do you still want to see him?’
‘Yes, I do.’ Obviously.
She gave me the full your-judgment-is-poor stare and asked, ‘So what are your plans for the weekend?’
‘We don’t have plans.’
‘But he was texting you about meeting up.’
‘Yes, but we don’t need to decide what to do now.’
‘Then how can you plan?’ I shrugged like I was way too cool to need more than an hour or two to plan a meet-up, but inside I was agreeing with her.
‘Why don’t you ask him to come round here?’
So she could ask him all about his ‘relationship’ with Talia? No, thanks. ‘I think that might be a tiny bit awkward.’
‘Oh, you mean Dad might embarrass you?’
That wasn’t exactly what I’d meant. ‘I think we’ll just go for a drink or something.’ ‘A drink?’ ‘Coffee?’
‘You hate coffee.’
‘Coffee doesn’t mean coffee.’
‘What does coffee mean?’
‘Tea. I meant tea. That’s all I meant. Can we just not talk any more?’