Betty was the kind of woman who followed the Jenner’s Instagram. One of her hipster boyfriends had teased her about it one night while she was drunk… “Wait, you follow Kloe? Why?”
“They are my friends!” She blurted.
“For what value of friends, do you speak?” He laughed a smidge too cruel and in her face. “Those are not your friends. Jesus Fucking Christ, Betty.” He liked her, he liked her a lot, and he knew he shouldn’t tease her, but he also wished she were more secure.
Betty was so embarrassed about it she broke up with him. But she was also mad, they were her friends. This was 2020. Youtube stars and insta hoes… they respond, and it means they noticed, and noticing is caring. What did hipster-douchebag-lip pierce-boy know about friendship? They have tens of thousands of followers, but they’ll like your stuff, they’ll @ you sometimes… it’s not – it’s not nothing. It’s friendship in the digital age.
She was five three, she had a job, she dressed smart, and gosh darn it, Betty White was her friend. Yes! For some value of friend. For the real value. It was real to her. It was real to Betty, they both said so, they said it on Insta to their respective followers. Follower friendship is real. She didn’t need to explain that to some dumb-dumb who had only liked two of her facebook posts. Who uses facebook? He was almost an old.
She didn’t like that line of thinking. She was approaching thirty.
Anyway, she didn’t need to be judged. It had been a week since the breakup & three days since she last texted him. She contemplated writing, FU Forever.
She was obsessing. She started looking up podcasts about friendship. “Ummm, no…” swipe, swipe, swipe, “Tertiary Delight?” she bit the insides of her lips and did an imperceptible hrmmmm vibration before saying aloud to herself, “Maybe save it for later.”
Just as she was about to move on, a slow loading ad popped into view just in the corner of her eye, it sparkled. It was of a bearded dude in the shower, he had this shit-eating grin and one gold tooth that animated with an obnoxiously timed blink. Bold memed out letters to the left of the image read, Big Baller, Real Friends, Heavy Banger… and then at the bottom, in small print, as if it were a disclaimer it said, Life Changer.
She went to swipe past it, fat fingered and it opened instead.
[Life Changer, Best Friend in a Phone, Just like the movie!] The top filtered reviews read: Didn’t work.
Life Changer! Zomg. I can’t even. I was not paid to write this. But also, I kinda was? Doit!
It was fine. I… don’t think the app creators have, I don’t narc but, not sure this is legal? (PS: I’m popular on YELP, same screen name. Check me out!)
My life was changed. For some value of changed.
She looked at the phrasing. “For some value of changed.” Had two different colored shoes boy written that? Had he clicked on the stupid ad too? And then downloaded it? For some value of… who talks like that?
The download started without her.
Flummoxed she said yes to all the pop ups, checked on Betty and promptly forgot about it.
A loud push notification came at 3am.
[BAM! Life Changed! You are UP NOW!]
“Are you kidding me?” She put it on silent and rolled over into her pillow, so she missed the application’s next message.
Around 9am, she was sitting in her office cell phone, in her hand. She wrote, Miss your face. Then deleted it. She should process the TPM reports. She should catch up on deleting spam emails from Nigerian princesses, Covid cures, and people pretending to be her Nan. Should look busy in case the boss walked by.
She deleted 10 text drafts. She was over him. He was a jerk. He was nameless, a nobody. She was Betty & she was friends with Betty ‘Bad Bitch’ White. He could go F himself.
A push notification popped.
[I’m going to call you? Is that cool?]
She went to swipe it away, to say no, how could they call her? Do all the apps have access to her phone number? She guessed so. Maybe? Uber calls her? Lyft? Grub Hub? But… Life Changer Ball Hanger Real Friends Incorporated or whatever they were called? That seemed like she said yes to too many permissions. That seemed like a mistake in judgment.
Her office phone rang… she suspected correctly that it was the app.
She picked up and immediately the voice on the other end said, “Have you listened to Taylor Swift today?”
“What? Who is this?!” Betty added, “Hi.”
“When I’m going to text a boy I don’t want to text, I listen to Tay Tay instead. Some songs are more effective than others.” The voice was feminine. Betty imagined a redhead with tiny wrists and a pearl necklace she never wore, but was really proud she owned. It was that kind of voice. Sassy but caring, a little over the top, but also always trying to hold back, because she knew people didn’t like it when she was really herself. Betty got that.
“I’m Betty, who is this?” She knew it was the app but what else do you say?
“The official name of the app, is Life changer, Big Banger, Real Friends For Reals. But the For Reals is spelled Capitol F Capitol R & lower case S. FRs but the first two letters are capitalized and the last one is lower case. That’s the trademark and copyrighted term. But you could call me BB, RF, FRs.”
“That’s a lot.”
“BB for short?”
“Betty, did you know, that I’m your new best friend?”
“Best?” Betty was skeptical. What did that even mean in 2020?
“I’m going to…” BB looked down at the script next to her, “augment the reality that surrounds your power cores, and super charge your less than real banger of a life. And if you think your life is already a real banger, you still get the super charge. For Free.”
“How do you make money?”
“What would be your dishonest answer?” Betty asked.
“Okay, honestly,” Betty sighed.
“I think BBRFFRs is going out of business. I don’t think there’s any way to monetize this. I don’t get paid a lot, but – who is going to pay for this? Some tech millionaire got bilked as a troll, and now I’m on the phone with you. But! That’s good for you. Because this is Real AF.”
“Bee eff eff.”
“Okay…” She didn’t want to sound skeptical or mean so she tried to add a, “?” at the end, but she was on the phone and it didn’t really come through.
BB nodded self-assuredly. “Yeah. This is going to be awesome. So while we’ve been talking I’ve been running some advanced analytics on the info we have on you. Nameless trash pile hipster boy is not the person you should be pining for.”
“No?” She assumed at this point that more disturbing and personal information would be revealed shortly, so she withheld her indignation and surprise.
“Hot hot Kevin in accounting is single. He downloaded the app a few weeks ago, but then deleted it. Looooser. But to be a little fair, he had a pretty lame BBRFFRs. So I kinda get it. But he should have just escalated to support. We would have fixed it. That said, now that he’s not a client, but he was a client. That means this is a lock, and he’s yours.”
Betty took a moment to see if this was the point she was going to unleash about the invasion of privacy. She assumed, rightly, it would get more upsetting, so she held back, acted like this was normal. “Hot hot Kevin doesn’t know I exist. Also, he’s not my type. I don’t go for the tall dark and handsome accountant type. I care about what’s on the inside.”
“He’s tall dark and handsome on the inside too. He’s packing heat. I’m not going to get into it, but we’ve seen his naughty pics. They’re good. You are down. Trust me.”
“…” It was hard to resist outrage and indignation. “Do you know what my… looks like…”
“…” BB, Usually got yelled at for invasion of privacy right away. There was an escalation pattern she was used to. Shock & yell, then keep revealing stuff. By time she gets to the big things, the clients are so sick of being upset they just accept. “You’ve got to remember, I’m your BFF.”
“BB, does my BFF know what my Vee Aye Gee—looks like?”
“This seems like it might be a sore spot for you. No pun intended.” She let out a big sigh, like she was worried she was going to lose this client & she’d said all the wrong things & all she wanted was to say all the right things, and she knew deep in her heart that Betty was cool & that she really cared about Betty but instead of saying that she talked about stupid hot hot Kevin who isn’t stupid but everyone would know what she meant if only she could say it right. It was that kind of sigh. It took about half a heartbeat of time. She launched into, “You’re soooo beautiful, Baby. You have nothing to be ashamed of. AND YOU ARE PERFECT FOR HIM. You gave up a little bit, okay! a lot of autonomy & privacy, but this app is free! We really don’t sell this information, we just use it to help you until the business files chapter11, and so please, don’t hang up on me. Don’thanguponmepleasepleaseplease. I care about you. Okay you’re turn to talk. I’m zipping it.”
Betty was going to scream, but her boss walked by… so she cupped the phone, and whispered, “Hey boss, big phone call, I’ll see you at lunch?” He nodded and kept on strolling. She took a long pause to make sure he was gone and then put the phone back to her ear.
“Did you hang up?”
With indoor voice rage, “No. Are you: kidding me?”
“No.” BB’s voice was calm, and reassuring, she didn’t have kids, but she was using her natural mom voice, “I’m going to change your life. I’m paid to be your real friend. And I have access to a data set that’s… a game changer. It doesn’t have to be about love, it can be about us… or it could be about finance, it’s just… I found you on our client list, and I get you. I feel like, this is real. And I’m here for you.”
“You really think Hot hot Kevin would be into me? His name is Kevin, but he’s like a Ken doll. It’s kind of perfect.”
“We’ve got this. And if we don’t, you know what, we’ll go jump into a Zoom and watch Netflix together, we’ll walk through the park, have a picnic.” BB paused and added, “It’s a virtual picnic.”
“But it’s real?” Betty’s voice softened.
“Okay. Let’s do that… let’s go on a picnic date, before you try and Parent Trap me with a coworker.”
Betty couldn’t see BB, and BB couldn’t see Betty, but they knew, they were both smiling.
* * *
This was written for u/Jasper_Ridge, this was their prompt:
As you browse the app store on your phone something catches your eye; it proclaims upon its installation it will change the way you see the world. Having a mixed bag of reviews, and figuring it must be some sort of Augmented Reality game you decide to install it.