Magic aside, on that Friday I was taking refuge in the defensive daily routines I built around myself. Walking to and from work, eyes closed, listening to beats, both my hands stuffed in my StarShake hoodie for protection from the dry winter air all the way until I came to work. I’d say that in my time making smoothies I got about one person a week commenting on my magical-girl-ism or my former idolhood. Never much interest in the actual music I performed during the time, but just interest in my experience as part of the pretty face factory and the quirky exclusivity through which it operates. “Haha, yeah that was part of my former life,” or “I’m still working on some new music, but we’ll see how the record labels like it,” I would put out when asked. Never once did I say: “Sir, I know your daughter loves idol pop and you probably have a weird thing for it too, but that was my past life and this is a StarShake. My name is Ellery and I need to take your order; call me Moonbeam again and I phone security.” Never said, but hard not to think.
I had the smoothie place job for a few months after graduation. Every day on my break I would check through the news story results on my phone, silently wishing in vain for some sort of news that would give me an edge on getting noticed by a label. Realistically this ended with my general anger at the music establishment, cursing under my breath while my brain would suck in the last bubblegum vape juice I had enjoyed over the break. But on this fateful day, this ritual was answered. My phone went off with a search spike that found me utterly off-guard:
“BAILEYBELLE” – 76.8k posts, last 90 minutes, #4 on Trending.
Something had happened with Bailey, the lead singer of our group? Bailey was her real name and Belle was the magical girl name associated with our act, but “Baileybelle” was what she called herself as an influencer. I instantly felt that unmistakable mix of curiosity and unease that can only come when something deeply personal shows up on trending. The early news results did little to alleviate things:
“EX-MAGICAL GIRL STREAMER “BAILEYBELLE” SUBJECT TO VIOLENT ATTACK”
“FORMER IDOL INFLUENCER VICTIM OF ASSAULT, IN CRITICAL CONDITION”
The articles were still breaking—something about her being violently assaulted by an unknown number of attackers, possibly two but likely one, outside of her apartment a few hours north of Los Cosmopilas in San Figueroa. Few other details. I had only a moment to look at the reactions to this—other e-drama streamers commenting on it and referencing other rumors by other streamers, all of whom I didn’t recognize or care about in the slightest. I read a lot of posts and chats, only remembering the gist of a few gems such as:
“im SURE it was a simp, baileybelle has had practice leading simps on ever since her idol days”
“was totes drug money she couldnt pay off lmao”
“Not surprising this would happen, all magical girls are attention starved whores”
I didn’t have time to read more; I sheepishly switched off the phone and returned to the all-demanding smoothie counter, my mind completely racing until I was able to check out for the evening. The glances I sneaked at my phone told me that this was becoming a major news story; and by the end of my shift I couldn’t help but feel that people were now looking at me not only as “overgrown magical girl,” but also as “wasn’t she in the same group as that streamer who just got attacked?”
The second my shift was over I rushed home, walking a little faster than normal, forsaking the beats with my player stuffed non-magically into the hoodie that I also pulled over my blue hair. Maybe no one was showing any extra attention to me, but it didn’t care. I felt vulnerable. I could tell this wasn’t going to go away without addressing, and I sure as hell wasn’t ready for anything that came next.