Chapter One (Mythomania)
It’s Saturday morning at eleven AM when Isla Montgomery finally rolls out of bed and shoves her cold feet into a pair of pink fluffy house shoes she bought from Goodwill. Yawning and rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, the nineteen-year-old girl lumbers across the crooked floors and into the shoddy kitchen, filling her dented kettle and waiting sleepily for the water to boil. She quickly grows impatient, grabbing an apple from the counter and rinsing it off, slicing the fruit into small chunks and rummaging through her disorganized pantry to find some peanut butter.
Isla settles onto the flat, floral couch in her tiny living room with her breakfast and a warm blanket thrown across her legs. She reclines and grabs her phone, smiling at the adorable photo of Jaemin she has as her lock screen before punching in her passcode and checking her notifications. With a small frown, Isla realizes that she slept through a LiVe. She clicks the link anyway, only to be told that the livestream is currently being re-uploaded. She shrugs, deciding to simply watch it later.
Isla has been a fan of OT2B for four years, ever since the K-pop band was first formed. It consists of five members - three singers - Kim Seojoon, Park Woojin, and Matoi Jaemin and two rappers - Han Leo and Bae Daehyun. She remembers those early days vividly, smiling to herself as she recalls the bizarre hairstyles and questionable outfit choices the boys donned. Their music was always phenomenal, even if it wasn’t popular, their lyrics filled with meaning and their melodies memorable. Their lyrics always seemed to resonate with her, encouraging her to do her best and uplifting her spirits whenever she felt down. The band has become such a large part of her life that Isla doesn’t know who she would be without them and without their work.
Beyond their musical prowess, the band members themselves bring light into Isla’s life. Their energetic and bubbly personalities always make her laugh and smile, seeming to connect with them on a personal level. Through the years, they’ve become friends for Isla, people she reaches for, even if that just means watching videos or liking tweets.
But in the last year or so, the foreign band has become increasingly popular abroad, their lovingly named fans - the Starlights - popping up everywhere. On one hand, Isla couldn’t be prouder of them. The band’s successes feel like her own, their triumph making her heart race with pride. But on the other hand, Isla feels a bit apprehensive, sitting through forced and awkward interviews as everyone tries to get their hands on the group, using their name for views and clicks.
She sighs, clicking off the LiVe app and looking at her phone, noticing the lack of notifications. It’s another one of those weekends where the young lady has no plans, no friends to hang out with, and no errands to run. Isla could stop by and visit her family, but it would be a waste of time to visit people who don’t care about her. Since graduating high school a year ago and forgoing the traditional college route, Isla has desperately been searching for her life’s purpose, for what makes her tick. But she’s been entirely unsuccessful, stuck working a waitressing job to afford her tiny, run-down apartment only an hour’s drive away from the hometown she hates. OT2B is the perfect distraction from reality.
The girl is completely free of commitments, whether she wants to be or not. With nothing better to do, Isla decides to spend her time binge-watching the new kdrama she’s heard so much about - something involving a chaebol falling in love with a waitress. She makes it half an hour through the first episode before a Twitter notification interrupts the funny scene the main character experiences.
It’s a message. That's quite odd as Isla’s Twitter is purely for her to be able to keep up with the OT2B boys and to host her LiVe account. She only has six followers and has never spoken to any of them or anyone else for that matter. Curious, she clicks the notification, tsking in annoyance when it takes too long to load. When it finally does, she finds herself wishing she’d just continued with her show.
‘A whore like you doesn’t deserve Jaemin. I hope you choke on your own spit.’
Isla just stares at the message, not sure what to do. It doesn’t make any sense at all. She doesn’t deserve Jaemin? What do they mean?
After another moment of deliberation, she decides to ignore it, blocking the hateful person and continuing with her show. The message couldn’t have been meant for her, and if it was, it must have been a troll who sent it, just choosing a random account to try and start shit with.
But she doesn’t get another five seconds in before her phone seems to spazz out, a million notifications coming at once. Thousands of messages all pop up and her follower count skyrockets from six to sixty thousand.
She shakes her phone, thinking it's glitching out. When the notifications keep flooding in, Isla goes to her Twitter, finding among all the new followers, comments, and DMs, a post notification from OT2B’s official account.
She nearly drops her phone when the tweet loads, her fingers shaking badly as she stares at the photo that was tweeted out.
It’s a photo of her, one her outgoing coworker took two weeks ago when the two of them spent a Saturday afternoon shopping at the strip mall near her home. She’d dressed up that day and had felt pretty, smiling widely towards the camera and situated beside one of the trees growing inside of the building.
The caption has her feeling sick to her stomach.
‘This is her, my beautiful girlfriend. Thank you @islaliving for always being there and supporting me. I love you! #Jaeminie’
They must have been hacked, right? There’s no way this is happening, there’s been some terrible mistake. Convinced that she’s dreaming, Isla downs the last of her coffee in one gulp, turns off her TV and heads back to bed. When she wakes up, it’ll all be over, or so she believes.
But, it’s not a dream. The messages keep coming, her phone keeps ringing until she wants to chuck the metal through the window. She doesn’t dare to even open her Twitter, fearful of more unsolicited hate comments. She goes so far as to disable her notifications. None of her other social media accounts are any better, her photo is posted everywhere on every account. Hell, even Billboard has an article up: ‘Idol Matoi Jaemin of OT2B announces his relationship with foreign girlfriend, Isla Montgomery, this morning on LiVe’.
Seeing the title, Isla immediately opens up the app, sighing in relief when the livestream has been re-uploaded. Her breaths are short as the video loads.
When it finally flickers on, Isla is blessed with the sight of a very happy looking Matoi Jaemin, the man grinning at the camera with his face cradled in his hands. He looks casual, dressed in a simple white t-shirt, face bare and hair messy. His dark locks fall right above his eyes, so the idol tilts his head to the side to get them out of his way. His nose is adorable, rounded and delicate, almost as cute as the twin dimples that imprint his cheeks when he smiles. It’s obvious why he’s a fan favorite. Jaemin is everything a girl could dream of: filthy rich, super talented, sickly sweet, and unbelievably sexy when he wants to be. He’s in direct contrast to Isla’s meeker, shyer personality. She wishes she could have some of the charisma he possesses.
Jaemin leans closer to the camera, giving the viewers a closer look at his neck and collarbones as he adjusts the lamp behind his phone, necklaces brushing together. As always, he waits a few minutes for the livestream to get more viewers, humming some tune she recognizes as one of her favorite songs.
An uncomfortable chill runs down her spine and she burrows deeper under the covers, subconsciously attempting to hide from it.
Another minute passes before he begins, sitting up straight and flashing an even wider smile. He looks absolutely ecstatic.
“Hello, everyone,” he begins, Isla being more thankful for subtitles than she ever has been in her entire life, “It’s late, isn’t it? Ah, I hope I didn’t wake any of you. Usually, I’d be getting ready to go to bed too, but I had a thought I just had to share with my Starlights.”
He pauses as if pondering his next words.
“I,” he bites his full, pink lips, rubbing his hands together, “I have an announcement.”
The comments must have surged because he laughs, scrolling on the screen.
“No, don’t worry! I’m not leaving OT2B, no way. And I’m okay, better than okay. It’s something good, I promise.”
Isla feels herself growing irritated. Usually, she’d love to see him ramble, but now is not the time. She can’t scroll forward either, as she could miss something important.
“Yes, it’s something very good indeed. Starlights have been there to support me these last years and I couldn’t have been more thankful. I wouldn’t have been here without you. For whatever reason, whatever time, each one of you found One Thousand Times Bright. It was fate for us to be together, for us to spend our youth together, to give and take love to and from each other. . .” He trails off, doll-like eyes looking dazed.
“And now, now I ask you to support me in my next endeavor. There’s this special path I hope each of you can walk down one day. I’ve stumbled across it, accidentally. I never meant for it to happen, but I’m so glad it did.”
He takes another breath, heat rising to his cheeks in the form of a beautiful blush as thoughts race through his head, loud, all shouting the same thing.
Isla is startled when the next words out of his mouth are in English, spoken clear as water.
“I’m in love.”
Isla pauses the video, overcome with some sort of emotion. She doesn’t know how to react. She stands up from her bed and leaves her phone frozen on Jaemin’s glowing face, her hands shaking as she paces across her bedroom floor.
“This is okay. This is fine. There’s some sort of misunderstanding. Maybe he’s going to say he’s in love with a new hobby, career or something. Maybe he’s fallen for Woojin. Yes, it’s something like that, isn’t it? I'll go over there and press play and he’ll say he’s dating Woojinnie. Anyone but me. Maybe it’s another idol? Or a childhood friend? He probably just used my Twitter handle by accident. It must have been close to someone else’s. Yeah, that’s it,” she convinces herself.
Clutching her fists together, she retrieves her phone, resuming the video.
“Her name is–”
Isla flings her phone across the room, wiping at her face.
“You know, I think I need to have a social media break today. That sounds great. I’ll read that new book I ordered, yeah. I’ll do that.”
She grabs the book and walks back into the living room, nearly tripping. Isla flops down onto the recliner and opens up the first page.
Fifteen minutes in, it’s clear that this isn’t working at all. She’s reread the first line at least a hundred times.
Isla storms back upstairs and grabs her phone, sitting on her hands to prevent herself from tossing it again.
“–Isla,” Jaemin plays with his fingers, looking bashful, “She's the most wonderful person I've ever met. I couldn't keep it inside of me anymore. I want to show her off to the world, hold her hand confidently, let everyone know that she's my baby.”
He's grinning so widely now, it looks like his cheeks might burst.
“I love her so much, I want to be with her forever . . . and I really hope my Starlights can grow to love her as much as I do. Please continue to send your love and support . . . I'm sorry if this seems selfish, but I can't help feeling the way I do. I can't help falling in love with her,” he licks his lips.
Isla feels herself grow warm, some indescribable electricity running through her veins. She lifts a hand to her mouth, feeling embarrassed that someone could say those things about anyone, especially her, even if it is a lie.
“Isla,” he says, and it feels like he’s looking right through her and into some part of her she didn't know she had, “I hope I did okay. English is really hard,” he laughs, “but you know I'll do anything for you. I’ve been studying like crazy, so I hope I don’t sound too weird! I love you so much. See you soon.”
He grins again and blows a kiss to the screen, hiding his face in his shirt as he turns the screen off.
For a moment, Isla just sits where she is, mind blown. She replays the video once, then again, and once more. A part of her refuses to believe that it's her he's talking about, but there's no way he could mean anyone else. He used her name, her photograph, her username. Maybe one of these could be a mistake, but surely not all of them.
She's stumped. How is one supposed to react when your idol who you've never met, never spoken to, suddenly outs the nonexistent relationship between the two of you?
She can't exactly deny it, can she? It'll make her look like she broke his heart, wouldn't it? No one will believe that it's not real if Jaemin says it is.
Why would he do this anyway? It makes no sense! Why jeopardize his career like that, especially for a relationship that isn't even real?
And why her, of all people? He could have chosen a million other people to have this fake relationship with. She wasn't even informed about it. Surely, to have a plot like this, the other person has to be in on it.
Maybe she should just delete her Twitter, lay low for a while. She should be safe, right?
But how did he get that photo anyway? The only people who follow her on Instagram are people she knows, just a few acquaintances.
It hits her like a bolt of lightning.
Hurriedly, she pulls up her account, and lo and behold, her coworker (who doesn't believe in putting anything on private) has that photo posted. And worse, she's been tagged. Just as she realizes this, follower requests flood in like a hurricane.
Isla feels sick to her stomach.
As if to make things worse, a text message comes in. A text from her crush who she had finally went on a date with only yesterday.
‘Didn't know you were the cheating type. Don't talk to me again’
She wants to scream. None of this makes sense in the slightest. How would someone like her ever be able to date an idol? Especially if that idol is Matoi Jaemin, beloved by millions. They’re on two entirely different wavelengths, living in separate worlds. How can anyone take his announcement seriously? How had Isla's boring Saturday turned into the worst day of her life? How, how, how?
But a disaster cake isn't done without the icing on top.
She receives an email from Smash Entertainment, OT2B’s company.