16 year olds Josh and Emma are about to realize that if they don’t like their future, they can just hit refresh…
The status bar is still chugging along, so I take a shower and then settle into my papasan chair to read notes for my Biology final. I’m just finishing a sample question when I look up and see that the download is finally complete. I follow the prompts and then restart my computer. The modem crackles and beeps as it connects to the internet.
My top email choices are taken, so I settle on EmmaNelson4Ever@aol.com. In the box for password, I consider a few things and then type Millicent. Last summer, when Kellan and Tyson were groping each other at every opportunity, Josh and I made fun of them by pretending we were a lovesick middle-aged couple named Millicent and Clarence who ate Hamburger Helper for breakfast and drove around town in a beat-up ice-cream truck. Kellan and Tyson never thought it was funny, but it sent Josh and me into hysterics.
I click Enter and the same AOL screen on Kellan’s computer now appears on mine.
“Welcome!” chimes an electronic voice.
A bright light flashes on the screen, but this time a small white box with a blue border appears in the middle of the screen, demanding my email address and password again.
EmmaNelson4Ever, I type. Millicent.
For about twenty seconds, my computer freezes. I’m about to push the power button when a new webpage slowly loads. It has a white background with a blue banner running across the top that says Facebook. A column down the center of the screen is labeled News Feed and under that are tiny photos of people I don’t recognize. Each photo is followed by a brief sentence.
Jason Holt is loving NYC and has already eaten two Magnolia cupcakes!!
3 hours ago · Comment · Like
Kerry Dean And you didn’t share one with me? :( I want chocolate frosting and sprinkles next time.
2 hours ago · Like
Mandy Reese I just walked into a spider’s web and didn’t freak out. Woo to the hoo!
17 hours ago · Comment · Like
I circle the mouse around the screen. I have no idea who Jason or Kerry or Mandy are or why they’re talking about spider webs and cupcakes, and I’m confused by the chaotic jumble of graphics and words. My eyes dart all over at the page. I have no idea what all of this means, Status and Friend Requests and something called Pokes.
I suddenly panic that this is a virus. Did Josh give me a corrupt CD-ROM that’s going to ruin my new computer? I’m beginning to get upset when I notice something that makes me shiver.
Under the blue banner, next to a small picture of a woman sitting on a beach, it says Emma Nelson Jones. The woman is maybe in her thirties with curly brown hair and brown eyes with lots of mascara. My stomach tingles because this woman looks familiar.
I lean forward and squint at the photo. Too familiar.
Why does this woman with curly brown hair and brown eyes have my name, only with Jones stuck on the end? And what is she doing on my computer?
When I move the mouse over her name, the tiny white arrow turns into a hand. I click the mouse and another page slowly loads. This time, the woman’s picture is larger and there’s all this other information, so much I can barely process it. As I study the page more closely, I notice that in the center column, next to a smaller version of the same woman’s picture, it reads:
Emma Nelson Jones is contemplating highlights.
4 hours ago · Comment · Like
I scan the screen some more and my breath seizes. This Emma Nelson Jones woman went to Lincoln High School. That’s where I go. She’s married to a guy named Jordan Jones Jr. and she was born on July twenty-fourth. She doesn’t list the year, but July twenty-fourth is my birthday.
My heart starts pounding and my head feels woozy. I sink my forehead into my hands and attempt to take some deep breaths.
My bedroom window is open and I hear Josh skating up the street and into his driveway. Without thinking, I bolt down the stairs and burst out the front door.
I squint my eyes into the bright sun. Feeling unsteady, I clutch the railing on the front porch and scream, “Josh!”
He looks at me, a confused expression on his face. I hadn’t meant to shout his name so loudly.
“What’s going on?” he asks, kicking his skateboard into his hand.
“It’s…I…” I pause and the wind chimes ring through my silence. “Something happened after I downloaded AOL. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s….”
I suddenly don’t want to say it out loud. Josh stares at me from his driveway, waiting for me to continue.
“Do you think you could come upstairs?” I ask.
Josh blinks and looks down at the ground. It’s been a long time since he’s been inside my house, much less my bedroom.
“Please,” I say.
Josh shrugs and follows me into the house.