After publishing five non-fiction books, I decided to turn my hand to the world of make-believe. Earlier this year, I published my debut novel, Selfried and the Secrets. Unfortunately, it happened in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, stifling my ability to hold an official, in-person book launch. Instead, I hosted a live launch online. If you missed it, not to worry, the book is still available for sale, and I'm sharing another excerpt below.*
Dedication: To anyone who’s felt sucked in by social media, this book is for you.
If you don't want anyone to know, don't do it.
– Chinese Proverb
One year earlier
Selfried removed her large sunglasses and scarf as she seated herself opposite the lawyer. When Digital Dialogue had first suggested she hire staff to populate her online world and help her grow her bottom line, she knew the proper paperwork would be required to lock down their loyalty. She wanted the most ironclad non-disclosure agreement money could buy, so she had donned a blond wig to jet off to Los Angeles, choosing to hire an out-of-state law firm that was recommended by Wister himself. Accustomed to dealing with high-priced clients that wanted their privacy maintained, the firm had a car service pick her up at the airport, the driver carrying a sign for “Roberta Jones”—the name they employed to keep female clients’ actual identities under wraps. The other side of the sign he held covered the bases in case the potential client was male. The driver was further instructed to keep the privacy screen raised on the hour-long drive to their office, to not engage in small talk with clients, and to avoid direct eye contact when taking bags and opening doors. The less he knew about his passenger, the better it was for his long-term employment with Blosky, Charles, and Smith.
Selfried had to admit, she was impressed by the level of discretion displayed by the firm, settling in to the cozy sedan with its well-stocked mini fridge, sliding off her black boots and reaching for a sparkling water. Her online celebrity was growing, and she could easily get used to this level of luxury. Opting to keep her small travel bag in the back seat, Selfried reached into the outside pocket, pulling out her phone to check Justin’s progress with a quick text. Any luck finding a trainer?
His response came quickly, as her phone dinged in her hand. Yup. When will you have the paperwork?
She checked her watch before responding. Soon. I’m half an hour out from the lawyer’s office. I’ll fax it to you shortly.
Selfried watched the three dots for a few moments before Justin’s reply popped up on her screen. Don’t. Have them transfer it to the USB I gave you, and then upload it like I showed you how.
He was right, they wanted to keep the trail back to her base under wraps. And anyone could be bought, even a disgruntled staff member at a high-priced law firm. Fine. I’ll text you when it’s been uploaded.
Tossing her phone onto the seat beside her, Selfried leaned back and closed her eyes. No need to worry about the outside world at the moment…unless. The relaxing ride was helping her brain plan out new posts, new images. With her dark glasses still in place, she decided a selfie was in order. No need to keep her adoring fans from enjoying her flawless style. And Digital Dialogue had indicated that she’d receive bonuses for posts that could skirt the new ad regulations being imposed on social media influencers. She tried a number of angles before choosing a photo that clearly showed the shades without revealing the logo on the arm, but everyone knew the iconically-shaped glasses were a bestseller for Urbane Accessories. She opened the Instagram app and loaded the image into her stories, pausing a moment to choose the best caption.
#luxury #treatyourself #limo
Perfect, she thought, tossing her phone down once again and retrieving her sparkling water from the cup holder. She’d wait a few hours before checking the stats, then she’d upload one of the other photos she’d just captured, with a little bit less of the glasses showing, the rest of the frame being taken over by her right ear and a glimpse out the window of the moving car. There was nothing identifiable in the shot, so no one would know it was a suburb of LA they were seeing pass by.
The driver pulled into a sleepy suburban strip mall, slowing down only when he arrived at the end unit. They were far enough away from the next business for Selfried to emerge from the back seat undetected. But she needn't have worried, as there was no one around to take note of celebrity comings and goings. The front office staff were deferential to her as they were to all incoming clients, and she waved them away when they offered to stow her luggage and bring her a beverage of her choice. She was here for one thing and one thing only, and she wanted to get right down to business. They led her to the largest office, that of lead partner and founder, Dick Blosky.
Selfried leaned towards the massive desk, locking eyes with the equally massive man occupying the other side of it. “Well, Mr. Blosky. Do you have my documents ready?”
“Document, Ms. Jones.” He was keeping up the veil of secrecy, not referring to Selfried’s true name, since he didn’t actually know it. Their meeting today would be the final time they would interact, once Selfried had a copy of the non-disclosure agreement on her USB drive and Blosky had an envelope of cash that would more than cover creation of the legal document. “A confidentiality agreement and a non-disclosure agreement are one and the same. Here’s your copy to review.”
Blosky pushed a stack of printed papers towards Selfried and continued, “You’ll see where you need to enter your name and where your employee enters their details. I would recommend you have them initial each page, to ensure they’ve read it through.”
Selfried glanced at the first page before leafing through the entire document. “And this will keep them from blabbing about me to others?”
“While they work for you and for the next five years, at risk of serious financial penalty. If they sign this NDA, you’ve got an airtight guarantee that will hold up in court, should they breach their contract.”
Shaking her head, Selfried was growing frustrated by Blosky’s bravado. “I don’t want to win in court. I don’t want to end up in court. Period. I want to prevent them from talking at all by scaring them into silence. Will this document do the job?”
“Most certainly it will, if they have any sense at all. Our clients are the top-tier in their fields and they value their privacy. We have never had a contract breach.”
Reaching into her bag, Selfried retrieved the USB drive and slid it across the table. “Kindly have one of your staff copy it for me. Then I’ll be on my way.”
*Copyright Amanda Sterczyk 2020, all rights reserved.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.