Authors: Amanda Gatton
ver the days that followed, Mr. Pure deteriorated. Cailyn did as well.
Mr. Pure became disheveled, distracted and distraught. Unable to sleep, concentrate, or function, he was with his family physically, yet emotionally absent. Cailyn's dark mood worsened. It manifested through her complete change of appearance. She hid behind bulky black clothing and punctuated her angry eyes with heavy black makeup. Cailyn became beautiful in a new, disturbing way.
Additionally, a wedge grew between Cailyn and her friends as they became alienated by her newfound attitude and constant, short, grouchy mood. She began to skip homework assignments altogether, and her exemplary grades reflected by the change in study habits quickly. There were even a couple incidents of arguing in school that landed her visits to the principal's office; a phenomenon she'd never experienced before.
Mrs. Pure worried and doted on them both. Clearly some emotional infection had attacked her loved ones, but somehow she didn't figure out that the same exact thing troubled both father and daughter. Mr. Pure maintained that he was simply enduring a trying time at work. And Cailyn just refused to address the changes in herself, and swore to her mother that nothing was wrong.
Finally the time came when Cailyn received a much anticipated update on the Pure family situation.
She lay in bed, propped on pillows, late one night. Unable to sleep, her bedside lamp cast dim light across her as she read a dark and chilling book of Grimm fairytales. She'd had no idea the original versions of fairytales she'd known and loved all her life had originally been so frightening. And, she loved it. Cailyn startled when her bedroom door quietly swung open. Her father slipped in, then softly shut the door behind.
He strode to her bed and dropped a sheath of papers unceremoniously onto her lap.
She blazed him with a quick glance of pure hatred, discarded her book, and then scooped up the papers. She quickly determined they were printed emails.
From: [email protected]
11/12 1:23 p.m.
Years. Years of my life I've devoted to you. You think you can carelessly cast me aside and be free of me?
We shall see.
From: [email protected]
11/13 9:18 a.m.
My Darling Quinton,
Don't worry, lover. I won't tell. I have other plans.
Yours Eternally, Aliah
From: [email protected]
11/14 2:26 a.m.
From: [email protected]
11/14 12:00 p.m.
A response on your part IS required. I can assure you, I am not a woman to be trifled with. As you well know.
SINCERELY, Ms. Joiner
From: [email protected]
11/14 6:54 p.m.
YOU VILE LOSER. POWERFUL LAWYER MAN. WHOLESOME FAMILY MAN. YOU CAN AND WILL ROT IN HELL.
I'LL PUT YOU THERE MYSELF.
From: [email protected]
11/14 8:19 p.m.
Be warned, you've gone too far, Quinton. Don't bother answering now. It's too late. You have set a wheel in motion. I will kill your darling daughter. I will cut out her heart, and I will feast on it. Then, I will hunt you down, and I will shove what remains of her dead, rotten flesh down your throat.
Your Promised One, Aliah
Mr. Pure wept openly as he studied Cailyn's face while she read the emails. After finishing the last one, a sigh escaped her in a deep blast. Her hands dropped heavily, leaving the papers lifeless in her lap.
"So, I guess you told this psycho that it's my fault?" Cailyn said incredulously, staring straight ahead.
"Cailyn, no! Of course not! I didn't give her any explanation or even meet with her in person. I just broke it off."
"Lovely, Dad. You've just done a lovely job."
"I have to go to the police, Cailyn. I can't allow her to threaten my family."
Cailyn scrambled out of bed, sending the appalling communications flying. "Dad! No! Mom will find out. You can't hurt her like this."
Mr. Pure blubbered crazily, his normally handsome face a mess of tears and snot. "Your mother would choose being hurt over you getting hurt, any day of the week. I have no choice."
"You listen to me," Cailyn seethed. "This is some angry tramp that's all talk over being dumped by some married jerk." Quinton's back straightened and he flinched as though he'd been slapped. Cailyn continued. "You will NOT destroy my mother over his nonsense, do you understand me? So help me, Dad, I promise you… If you cause Mom ONE TEAR over this, I will never ever speak to you again. Not ever. For any reason."
He gaped at her with wide, desperate eyes. "Cailyn, please," he begged. "You don't know her like I do. She's crazy. I take her threats very seriously. Please! Don't put me in this position."
"You put yourself in this position."
His shoulders slumped. After a long silent moment staring pleadingly at her, he finally spoke. "I will take you to and from school EVERY day. You will keep your phone on you and turned on at ALL times. You will not go anywhere but school and home, and if me or your mom can't be home with you, then you'll come with me wherever I go. Until… This blows over." For a moment she did not respond so he continued. "Cailyn, that's my counter. If you insist on keeping this quiet, then I will protect you. You agree to this, or I'll go to the police. Even if it meant losing your mom and you both, I'd do what I have to."
She stared at him with tears in her eyes. Suddenly, she recalled the father she'd loved endlessly only a week before. Maybe all was not lost. "OK, Daddy," Cailyn agreed meekly.
She began receiving strange friend requests on Likebook. The first one came that very night, as she checked her account just before bed. It was from a user named Jane Johnson who didn't have a profile picture. Additionally, the user had no information about herself listed or even one single Likebook friend.
She sat in a small, dim ring of light at the computer desk in the quiet family room. The light reflected on her shining black hair and pale porcelain skin, giving her a sort of ethereal look. The room outside Cailyn's ring of light was cloaked in darkness. She shivered at the sudden sense of loneliness as she stared at the strange request on the computer screen, and how any other day, she probably would've accepted it without a second thought.
Cailyn's anger flared. She declined the invite to connect and then blocked the user. "Weak," she muttered. She was certain it was Aliah Joiner hiding behind a false identity. But, it did remind her to change the security settings on her account to lock down her profile tighter than a state penitentiary.
She knew she should tell her dad. But she also knew he'd flip and probably call the police. At very least, he'd force her to delete her social media accounts. And she wasn't about to do that over a classless tramp who didn't scare her in the slightest.
She did however; decide to take a few minutes to hack all her mom's social media accounts to tighten up the security settings there as well. Mrs. Pure wasn't really into the online scene and rarely used social media. As Cailyn suspected, all her accounts were left wide open visibly, so she made sure people could no longer easily access her mother's personal postings. She could only imagine that this Aliah Joiner probably deviously stalked Mrs. Pure from afar.
Well, not anymore.
But the next morning she had another odd friend request. This time there was a picture and it was a teenaged boy she didn't recognize with a name she did not know. He too, had no friends. "Nice try," Cailyn growled as she stabbed the decline button. Clearly Aliah Joiner thought she was an idiot, and that infuriated her. She began to almost wish Aliah
confront her face to face. And then they would see who would eat whose heart.
Throughout the day, there were more random requests which she denied. Finally, a request came from her friend Jennifer Tide. A corresponding message accompanied it.
Hey Cailyn. I deleted my old account; this is my new one if you could accept me.
Cailyn smiled at her pretty friend's freckled face and moved to accept, but then she paused. Something told her to type Jennifer's name into the search bar. She grew angry all over again to find her friend's profile still intact and already on her friend's list. Along with being annoyed once again, she became uneasy for the first time.
For some reason, it unnerved her that the woman had chosen to impersonate one of her own classmates to attempt to ensnare her. She clicked back to the fake Jennifer profile. Of all the requests she'd received, this one was the only one with more photos than just a profile picture. She'd stolen many of Jennifer's pictures and created albums to create the effect of a real person. She'd also copied and added Jennifer's personal information. Most disturbing of all, there were actually a few friends associated with the profile. Her own classmates. People who hadn't had any reason to be suspicious and had accepted her.
Aliah Joiner was trying harder to connect.
She picked up her phone and dialed Jennifer Tide.
"Hey, Jen. It's Cailyn Pure."
"Oh, hey, Cailyn! How's it going?"
"Fine. Hey, did you by chance make a new Likebook profile and request me?"
"Um, no. Sure didn't, why?"
"I think someone's impersonating you. They have your pictures and a few people from school actually accepted this fake profile."
"Oh wow! Really? That sucks. Probably one of those Likebook scammers that try and get you to give them money or something."
Cailyn paused, frowning. In her mind's eye, she pictured her perky, freckle faced friend with the fiery mane of curls, innocent and oblivious to how truly dangerous false identities on the Internet could be. "Yeah probably. Well, I'll report it and let the other people that accepted it know to report it also."
"OK, great! Thank you!" Jennifer said cheerily.
"Hey, Jen, could you do me a favor?" Cailyn asked, feeling rotten that her completely uninvolved friend had now been inadvertently involved.
"Sure sweetie, whatcha need?"
"Change all your security settings, OK? So people that aren't your friend can't see your stuff."
Jennifer giggled. "I doubt it's that big a deal. But I will. Thank for worrying about me."
Cailyn hung up feeling much more worried than her bubbly friend could possibly know.
ailyn dragged her eyes open early on Thanksgiving Day to find her home already saturated by the aroma of fragrant herbs and a roasting turkey. For a moment her mind drifted back to Thanksgivings past and she forgot all the drama of the present. She recalled all the boisterous noisy family gatherings and the delicious foods and she couldn't wait to start the day. On the other hand, the warm comfort of her bed invited her to stay and drift back to sleep. Fun though Thanksgiving was, it also proved to be exhausting.
Nonetheless, she forced herself awake. Quickly she dressed and made her way to the kitchen where her mother hummed cheerily and busied herself about the counters mixing and chopping. Cailyn took a deep breath of the heavenly scents and her mom turned to embrace her.
Outside the sun had barely emerged over the horizon and a thick blanket of snow covered everything as far as the eye could see. "Do you think everybody will make it in?" Cailyn asked, wondering about the bad winter weather.
Nathalie Pure chuckled. "Oh you know they will. They wouldn't miss your father's sweet potato casserole for anything," she imparted. Mention of her dad brought a shadow to Cailyn's face and her mood darkened slightly.
Soon he joined them in the kitchen and the three of them worked together preparing the meal, quiet with their own thoughts.
By eleven in the morning, the extended family had begun to arrive. First, Great Uncle Huntsman, her mother's uncle. He was a serious brooding fellow. Though Cailyn didn't know him well, and he generally seemed humorless and even hard to get along with, she'd always heard tales of him lingering quietly in the background of the family, watching and protecting.
Another slew of aunts, uncles, and grandparents trickled in but finally it was time for Cailyn's most anticipated guests to arrive. Her father's brother and his wife, and their whopping total of seven sons. They were the Pure family's claim to fame. Two sets of twins and one set of triplets had been born to the couple over a short period. Everybody joked and teased the couple for their apparent superhuman baby making abilities. The entire family worked together to help support the huge bunch, and the boys were the darlings of every occasion.
The oldest set of twins was seven and was comprised of Jordan, the serious, sometimes grumpy brother; and Marvin, the exceptionally smart, leader of the pack. Next came five year old twins, Jake and Kyle. Jake being the brother who was always bubbly and in a great mood, and Kyle the silly flibbertigibbet who was forgetful and silly. Finally came the triplets, three year olds. Frank who was painfully shy and always peered up at Cailyn with a silly smile and bashful eyes. Caleb who had terrible allergies and sneezed eighty six thousand times a day, poor kid. And Albert who always seemed in the middle of a growth spurt and needed naps constantly.
Cailyn spent the day helping and playing with the boys and remembering how very much she adored her entire family. How very much she just wanted everything to be OK. She watched her small cousins and contemplated how much things would change if her father and mother split up. She couldn't stand the thought of it.
But eventually the day wore down and the family began to trickle out just as they'd arrived until Cailyn was once again left alone with her parents.
In the stillness that followed the lively party, she realized, no matter how much she hated the idea of her family breaking up, the threat was real.
Cailyn clung to her dad. Her mother misinterpreted it as a rekindling of their father daughter bond, and was delighted. Her blissful ignorance only served to further depress Cailyn. And in late hours of the night, Mr. Pure would steal into her room to update her about communications from Aliah.
Her father informed her that his office was plagued with hang up phone calls. His inbox was flooded with vulgarity. No more threats or even mentions of Cailyn. Mostly just senseless, profane ramblings. Or sometimes Aliah would forward his own old emails back to him. Emails where he'd promised her the sun and moon. These sorts of messages she'd send over and over, up to one hundred times in a row.
He also reported seeing her outside his office frequently. Mr. Pure told Cailyn that he'd be heading out the front door of his firm and stop dead in his tracks when he spotted Aliah standing across the street. Her black hair whipped around her face in the frigid winter wind. She wore big black sunglasses, despite the grey, sunless days. They covered most of her face, but of course Quinton knew that it was her. He revealed to Cailyn that every time he saw her, she was dressed all in black, which wasn't her usual. And she'd be wearing black leather gloves and smoking long skinny cigarettes.
"I never knew her to smoke in the past," Quinton reported.
Other times he caught her trailing him in her car. As he drove to the bank, the court house, or home, at a variety of hours ranging from early to late evening, her headlights flooded his rear view. He said that it made him nervous when she weaved erratically behind him, and tailgated far too close for safety. He wondered if she was on drugs. She wanted him to know she was there; didn't even attempt to remain hidden. But Mr. Pure confided in Cailyn that he was glad Aliah's efforts were focused on him. Because then he knew she was leaving his daughter alone.
Four weeks later, it all stopped.
No more emails or phone calls. He stopped spotting her. Once, several days passed with no word from Aliah, Cailyn threw her arms around her dad one night.
"See Dad, I told you she'd go away!"
He accepted the first hug she'd offered in what seemed like ages. He embraced her warmly. But he drew a jagged sigh. "We'll see," he said wearily
She backed away and smiled up into his face. "Aw, come on, Dad. Cheer up. It's over. We're a family again. Let's just start new." Her eyes shone with the light of a loving daughter, eager to forgive the father she adored.
He placed his hands firmly on her shoulders and stooped slightly bringing them nose to nose. "Listen to me," he said. "Do not let your guard down."
"Cailyn," he stood back again, closed his eyes and shook his head. "I mean it. Our arrangement stands until I'm sure she's gone. You are not to be alone."
The fearful glint in his eye sent a shiver down her spine. "OK, Daddy," she agreed quietly.