Have you ever blocked an ex?
I blocked all of them. Facebook, phone numbers, the whole nine yards. When my husband and I got engaged, it was time to give up my guilty pleasure of stalking exes… no matter how much joy I got from seeing Michael chronically unemployed, or David dating a woman double his age.
I’d successfully avoided stalking them for seven years – until last night. A friend of mine posted a photo of herself at a wedding.
My ex, Joseph’s, wedding.
Huh. I felt that familiar twinge in my stomach. Not jealousy, exactly – I was happily married. Just… annoyance? Curiosity? Nostalgia?
Maybe all three.
I unblocked him. Sure enough, his profile photo showed him standing at the altar. Watching his lovely bride walk up the aisle. I couldn’t see much from the photo, since her back was turned. But she was curvy, with long, dark hair.
His “type.” My type.
I turned around. Chris was snoring softly, out like a light. Should I really be doing this? Checking out an ex’s wife? I hadn’t seen Joseph in 12 years. I didn’t really care about him, or his wife.
I couldn’t stop myself. I greedily clicked on the album titled Wedding Photos. The first image loaded.
I let out a gasp.
The bride… looked exactly like me. Dark hair, falling to her waist in soft waves. A pointed chin. Full cheeks. Even that mole on her neck, under her left ear.
It was like looking in a mirror.
I clicked madly through the photos. Through the ceremony, the reception. There she – no, I – was, throwing my head back in laughter during our first dance. There I was, closing my eyes, tossing the bouquet behind me. There I was, snuggled up to him, looking out the taxi window.
I would’ve thought it was some Photoshop trick, but the photos went years back. Us, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Baking muffins together. Engagement photos, showing off her ring – with the same freckle I had, near her thumb.
I clicked on her profile. Anna Brekje. Sadly, she kept it pretty private. The only thing I could see was her profile picture – a wedding photo I’d already seen.
Before I could stop myself, I clicked on her name and started typing a message.
Hi Anna. My name is Jenna Baker. I saw that you and Joseph got married. Congratulations! How did you two meet?
I didn’t point out the fact that we looked like twins. She’d see it herself. No need to be a creep.
The message popped up a second later:
✓ Seen 12:47 AM
Then three dancing dots appeared, indicating she was typing a response.
My heart began to pound. I grabbed my glass of wine and took a huge gulp, my fingers slipping against the keyboard.
But a reply never came.
After several minutes, I typed another message, nicer this time:
I’m sorry if this seems like a random message from a stranger. I just wanted to reach out, because I thought it was kind of cool that we looked so much like each other.
✓ Seen 12:52 AM
I tapped my fingers across the table, then took another sip of wine. Or, well, tried to. The glass was empty. I got up, poured another from the fridge, and sat back down at the computer.
Still no message.
Around 2 AM, I finally closed the laptop and joined Chris in bed.
She doesn’t look exactly like me. That’s what I told myself, as I slipped into sleep. Her eyes are a little too close together. Her smile hitches up on one side. And she’s shorter than me, isn’t she? People sometimes look alike. It happens all the time. My cousin looks just like Taylor Swift, when she does her makeup right. Two guys I knew in college – Evan Johnson and Justin Scalzo – looked like brothers.
When there are 7 billion people in the world, some are bound to look alike.
The next day, Anna popped up in my “suggested friends.”
I hate it how Facebook does that. You stalk someone, and then suddenly, it suggests them as a potential friend. It’s like some sort of stalking hangover.
I nearly scrolled past the friend suggestion, when I saw the text under her name:
12 mutual friends
She’d had no mutual friends with me last night.
What the hell? I read the list of names. Molly Ackerfield, Jesslyn Johns, Mike Zhu… They weren’t people I’d talked to recently, but they weren’t just random acquaintances, either. Molly had been my freshman roommate in college, Jesslyn worked a few cubicles down at my last job, and Mike was an old crush of mine from high school.
I saw that Mike was online and shot him a message.
me: Hey Mike. Did you accept a friend request by someone named ‘Anna Brekje’?
Mike: Oh hey! You got your account back!
Did you find out who hacked it?
me: No one hacked my account. What are you talking about?
Mike: You messaged me from that Anna account saying it was your new one. That your old one had gotten hacked. And you were using a new name because you were sick of your boss checking up on your FB.
me: That’s not me.
Mike: But the picture is of you.
I clicked over to her profile. Her picture was no longer a photo from the wedding – it was just a plain old selfie. No makeup, morning light, with the caption “New day. New me.” I squinted at the background; it looked familiar, somehow. Blue sky, a patch of grass, and the corner of a stone building. But I couldn’t quite place it.
I shook off the feeling and continued typing to Mike.
me: That’s not me, Mike.
Mike: Oh, it’s a bot?
I didn’t know how to explain everything. So I told him yes, and to unfriend her immediately. Then I messaged the other eleven people and told them the same thing. I poured myself a cup of coffee – it was too early for wine – and sat back down at the computer, staring at her face.
“What are you up to?”
I jumped at Chris’s voice. He stood behind me, smiling, still in his pajamas.
“Just browsing Facebook,” I said, shutting the computer. “But I should get to work. I’m going to be late.”
I wanted to tell him about it. But then I’d have to admit to stalking Joseph, and spending hours tracking down his wife…
After a quiet breakfast, I made my way over. The rain was driving down in sheets, drowning out the surrounding noise. I found the sound calming – water hitting the glass, over and over, washing away my fear.
I pulled into the parking lot.
Next to the door stood a figure. Her face was hidden under a black umbrella – but familiar waves of dark hair fell down her waist.
I swung the car door open and swiftly walked towards her.
“Anna?” I called.
She didn’t look at me. Instead, she turned around and walked down the sidewalk. Then she disappeared into the far end of the parking lot.
“Hey, you okay?”
My coworker, Lena, leaned against the stone building. In one hand, she held a Starbucks cup; in the other, her phone. I hadn’t even noticed her.
“Did you see that woman?”
I shook my head. “Nevermind.”
Get a hold of yourself.
That wasn’t even her.
You’re driving yourself crazy.
I took a deep breath and followed Lena into the building. We entered the elevator and I closed my eyes, determined to put this behind me and get some work done.
My phone was gone.
In my rush to pursue what I thought was Anna, I’d left my phone in the car. And my wallet. And forgotten to lock it up.
Now they were both gone.
Nothing else was missing. Not even the $30 cash in my glove compartment.
I swung into the driver’s seat. My shirt was soaked with rain. I gripped the steering wheel and began to cry.
It was too much stress. This weird woman who looked just like me, now my stuff getting stolen… it was one of the worst weeks I’d had in a long time. I needed to tell Chris everything. He’d know what to do. He was always my rock, my calming force. Whenever I spiraled into anxiety, he was always there to pull me back.
I turned up the radio and drove home.
But when I pulled into our driveway, I found a car already there. A blue Honda Civic – just like mine.
I slowly got out of the car. Walked up to our door, my heart hammering in my chest.
I heard voices inside.
“That was fantastic! I didn’t know you knew how to make chicken cacciatore.”
I pulled out my keys. But my house key was missing from the keyring. I backed away from the door, feeling dizzy, and walked around the side of the house.
I peered through the window.
Through a gap in the curtains, I could see them. Chris clearing the plates. His eyes twinkling as he stared at her. She sat at the table, her back turned to me. I could just make out her hair, the vague curve of her face.
I slammed my hand into the glass. “Chris!” I shouted. “It’s me!”
But he was already halfway to the kitchen with a pile of dirty plates.
Only she heard me.
She whipped around. Dark eyes locking on mine.
My heart stopped. She looked exactly like me – yet so, so different. She sat up straighter than I did, and her movements were too smooth, too graceful. The expression she wore – a small, mischievous smile that didn’t reach her eyes – was one I’d never wear.
How could Chris not see the difference?
Keeping her eyes on mine, she reached down and pulled something out of her purse. The black metal glinted in the light, and I panicked.
She’s going to shoot me.
But then she turned – and pointed the revolver directly at Chris. He was hunched over the sink, his back to us, utterly oblivious.
“No. Please, no,” I whispered, my voice shaking with tears.
She lowered the gun.
Then go, she mouthed.
I backed away from the house. Footsteps thumped, and I heard his voice again. I was too far away to make out the words, but I could hear his light, lilting tone. My heart ached. More footsteps sounded, and then I saw a light turn on upstairs.
My insides twisted. Nausea bubbled up in my throat.
But I dutifully opened my car door, got inside, and drove away.
Now, I’m at a hotel. I’ve been here for the past few hours, pacing and panicking, not sure what to do. I can’t go back to the house. She’ll shoot him. I can call the police, but she has my wallet. My phone. She can prove that she is Jenna Baker, through and through.
And then she might kill Chris anyway.
Because I know she wasn’t just making empty threats.
According to Facebook, Joseph passed away last night. His profile is overrun with condolences and memories. Friends and family alike, celebrating his life, mourning the loss of a beautiful soul.
The top post is from Anna herself.
I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there for you, Joseph. I wish I could have reassured you. Shown you how much you are loved. Been by your side, through and through.
I wish you didn’t take your own life.