I walked off the elevator and down the hall to my apartment, looking down and lost in thought before bobbing back up to see my parents in front of the door. Waiting outside for me was the kind of thing they did during questionable situations, and I instantly knew they’d read about what happened.
“Ellery! Have you heard about what happened today with Bailey?” my Dad asked.
“Yeah, I saw on my phone right after it happened. I was just going to go read more about it when I got home. It’s…it’s insane, right?”
I didn’t want them to worry, but I didn’t know enough to properly formulate my thoughts on it. Even if I did, it wouldn’t get them off my back. Mom chimed in:
“This is the kind of thing that happens to magical girls! People are insane about magic! You need to be careful, especially since you haven’t…”
They knew I was sensitive about not having flatlined; I shot her a reasonably disrespectful scowl. She stopped for a moment before continuing.
“…Anyway, there was a whole message that was sent out to the parents of former magical girls about it; they mentioned you and Tiffany as Bailey’s idolmates in MOONBEAM. Do you want to come and read it?”
“Really? I can look at it from my own computer.”
Dad retorted, “But it’s on our email account—”
“I know the password to your email, I helped you make it! I just…I just want to look at this all and process this alone for a bit.”
“Tiffany’s mom reached out to us too, you know,” dad interjected.
“Miss Karen?” I said, slightly more interested but also just wanting to be left alone. Karen Waspman, Tiffany’s mom, was a former magical girl herself in the early days of the MGIG industry. During MOONBEAM’s career she acted as a sort of liaison between us and the upper echelons of the idol girl industry.
“About an hour ago Miss Waspman emailed your mother and I wanting to see how we were doing given the news. She also asked to tell you to call Tiffany, who wanted to talk to you. Do you still have Tiffany’s number?”
“Yeah, of course I’ve still got Tiffany’s number. Bailey’s too, it’s just, I haven’t really kept up with either of them for a long time.”
What in the gods’ names could Tiffany want? She wasn’t the type of girl to offer emotional support for the sake of it. She was probably planning something. I needed to be alone to process everything and Tiffany would just make me more stressed right now.
“I…I’ll look into it and call her later tonight. Thanks for letting me know.” I said, hoping to end things.
“Please, come have dinner downstairs with your father and I. We want to make sure you’re okay,” Mom continued, not seeming to get that I didn’t feel like 20 minutes of listening to one of dad’s boomer-rants about how vulnerable magical girls are and how Los Cosmopilas in particular isn’t as safe as it used to be. I swear, sometimes parents enjoy saying things more if they know it’s something you’ve already heard a million times before.
“Thanks, but, I’m okay. I’ll just make some ramen or something.” I said, a bit more stressed.
“No please, we want to love you, and help you, and—”
“Mom, I’m, fine!” I blurted out in three syllables of equal length and unrestrained annoyance through grit teeth and shut eyes.
My powers act up unconsciously when I get annoyed. The air around my head began to glow and the fluorescent lights above us flickered out for a moment, their hum-buzz quieting as if silently gasping at my outburst. Individual blue hairs stood on end as if I was conducting electricity, and my body felt hot underneath my hoodie. Mom and Dad looked at me, then at each other, then said they loved me and to come down if I needed anything. Magic usually says more about how I’m feeling than any word or gesture can.
“I love you too,” I mustered faintly as they walked out. I don’t know if they even heard it, but I didn’t feel like speaking up more loudly. Was I being an asshole to them? There’s nothing I hate more than when I don’t know if my behavior is assholish or not. All those years of voice lessons and performances in front of thousands of fans, and I can barely even talk to my own parents without working myself into a tizzy.
I sighed, unlocked the door and slinked inside. My apartment is a small space, but it’s really the only place I feel comfortable using magic away from the rest of the world’s eyes. My mind was racing as I changed out of my uniform and made myself a cup of the overly-caffeinated tea I keep convincing myself doesn’t hurt my physical and mental health as much as it probably does. I normally try to avoid caffeine so late in the evening, but I was so wound up by the news about Bailey. I knew I’d be up all night anyway.
Tiptoeing through my dark room to my computer setup, I ignored the latest intrusive music software update and got online. “Baileybelle” was still trending, as was #Pray4Bailey and the more foreboding #BaileyGate. I skimmed countless articles with one hand, periodically sipping my cup of liquid jitters clutched in the other. The gist I got was that Bailey was apparently expected to recover in time, but was in intensive care. There were two attackers and no suspects or witnesses.
The more articles I read, the less I seemed to realize I had previously understood about Bailey’s influencer career. I always thought she was, like, let’s playing video games or something; the majority of her content was actually more cosplay, or of other entertainment on the more mature side. There was a whole economy of dudes spending hefty sums of cash to get her recognition for only a few seconds each. It was something very strange I didn’t really know existed, but was on further consideration not really an entirely surprising leap from the kind of work you’d expect from a former idol. Hell, a big part of Bailey’s appeal seemed to be that she was an ex-idol, the steely-black hair of a flatlined magical girl being a major draw.
Most of the articles were just recounting what was known about #Baileygate, as it was now more commonly referred to; such articles only briefly went into Bailey’s tenure in our group. Only a few mentioned me or Tiffany, with little information on either of us. But that wasn’t to say the magical girl scene wasn’t taking notice; a few less tabloid-y articles went in on the history of negative incidents relating to former magical girls, the strict nature of our management, agents, and schedules and their possible ill effects on our mental health. I read through all of it, the intense discourse, not really knowing what to make of it. I felt undecided and conflicted, but in a way that felt bad for how much it coincided with my lived experience. This all prompted me to log into my semi-dead Social account, thinking about making some kind of post, but not really wanting to publicly insert myself into a discourse I was only tangentially connected to. I didn’t know where to take things or how I was supposed to factor into all of this, but I knew something had to be addressed in some way.
It was then that I remembered Tiffany wanted me to call. I swiveled in my chair to grab my phone, but had to use magic to move it over into my reach. I stared at Tiffany’s contact for an uncomfortable amount of time, sighing and eventually tapping the phone to call. Maybe she could help guide my confusion. Tiffany has clear opinions, if not always the best opinions, on everything.