Riley’s phone chirped.

“That thing again? Put it down.”

“Mom, we haven’t started eating yet. The rule is no phones AT dinner.”

“Watch the attitude. New version: No phones while we’re making dinner, either. Put it back on the charger and get to the table. Dinner is ready.”

Riley stared at her mom.


Riley stomped into the family room, sneaking a look at the chirping app.

A guy named Jake had clicked her profile; one look at his picture and she clicked back. She jammed the charging cable into her phone, flipped it to silent, and stormed back to the kitchen just as her sister was sitting down. Riley spotted a phone on the table next to her placemat.

“MOM! No phones at dinner, right? Why does Julie get to keep hers?”

Riley’s dad took a step closer to his younger daughter. “Because I said so.” He turned to Riley’s mom. “Julie called her Algebra teacher for help graphing an equation. We’re waiting for a call back.” He looked back at Riley. “The phone stays.”

Riley threw herself into her chair and pushed her food around on the plate. While her mom and dad argued about how they were going to find money for a car repair, Julie slipped her phone under the table and started texting.


“Riley, we’re talking. If you’re done, you can go to your room. And leave that phone down here. Go.”

Riley bolted up the stairs, leaving her plate on the table. She locked her door and pulled a tablet from under her mattress. Her friend Tamika’s parents always got the newest everything, and they never really noticed when their old tech went missing. Riley was never at a loss for a backup device.

She swiped through a few messages to see the one she wanted. Jake had already messaged her back. She clicked “Chat” and typed.


She swapped windows and started one to Tamika. Matched! Jake. Sooooo hot!!! Txtng now! <3

Tamika typed back: Dinner. Txt u later.

Swapped again.


Wat’s up?

Just waitin’ for you. Ur so beautiful. I can’t believe you’re talking to me! Tell me about urself.

What about? You read my profile, right? I’m a senior, can’t wait for school to be done. I have all my credits, they just won’t let me be done ’till June. I used to run cross country, but my mom didn’t want to get up early to take me to meets so I quit. Um…what else?

That sucks.

Yeah. She still treats me like I’m 12.

You’re 17, right?

Ya. She can’t stand me doing things for myself. But she can’t stand doing them for me either. She just wants a little perfect doll that she put on a shelf and look at. Like tonight. She took my phone for no reason.

Then how r u talking to me?

My friend gave me her old tablet. Mom doesn’t know.

Smart. Great friend. Send me a picture.

Lol of what?

Of you and your friend?


Riley tapped a couple times and found the perfect picture of her and Tamika from a Halloween party. She looked great. Tamika looked sloppy drunk.

Ur hot. She looks fun. Send me more of u.

Riley tapped and sent more pictures.

You definitely look older than 17. Ur mom should let you grow up.

Ya, she won’t even let me get a car. I can’t wait to get out of here.

What you doin after graduation?

Dunno. Tan. Go to the mall. Party. Stay away from here for sure.

You should come to Florida. Summers are great here. Beach every day. Party every night.

OMG, that sounds amazing. Wish I could come now.

Riley’s doorknob rattled. “Riley, open this door right now!” She heard a rustle against the door as her mom felt for the key on top of the doorframe.


She slapped the tablet closed, slipped it back under her mattress, and dove under the covers.

What’s next for Riley? It’s every teenager’s dream and every parent’s nightmare. Enter your email address to download Shutter Step and read what happens:


Photo Credit: Emma Craig via cc

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