W. H. Rose
Chapter Three (Mythomania)
The company van is silent except for the happy humming of Jaemin, the man’s fingers entangled with Isla’s. His hand is warm and pink, but Isla isn’t sure how much longer it’ll stay that way. One wrong step and all the warmth from his body could disappear.
Isla swallows, squeezing Jaemin’s hand tightly and not letting go. She’s sure her grip is hurting him, but Jaemin just smiles at her and doesn’t complain, his happy tune soon returning.
While Jaemin is off in lalaland, thinking whatever, Isla’s thoughts swarm with questions and concerns.
How much do the rest of OT2B know about her? Surely, they’re aware he’s sick, right? What if they’re not? Could she convince them? Maybe if she speaks with Leo, the only other member in the group who is fluent in English, she can explain what has really happened.
There’s a slim chance that it’ll change anything, but it’s all Isla has at the moment, all she has to cling onto in order to keep herself sane.
“We’re here, Isla, darling!” Jaemin suddenly announces, startling her.
“What? Oh, right,” Isla stammers, freeing her head of thoughts.
Jaemin can’t get suspicious.
“The boys are so excited! Everyone’s actually at home for once. Everyone goes their separate ways a lot, ya know?” Even though he’s still smiling, Isla notices something sad in his gaze.
She wets her lips.
“Do they–” she begins, not sure how to put her words, “Not spend a lot of time together? With you?”
“Mm,” Jaemin says, “Everyone needs alone time. We’re always together. We can’t help but get sick of each other from time to time.”
“Oh, yeah,” Isla agrees, “My friends like having breaks too. Keeps it fresh.”
Her words are a lie, a hollow attempt at relating to him. Isla doesn’t have any true friends, only acquaintances, so she isn’t sure if long stretches of time apart is what usually happens in a functional relationship.
Jaemin’s hand tightens now, Isla’s bones pushed closer together than what’s natural. It’s not enough to cause any real pain, but it certainly causes Isla to wince.
“Good thing we won’t need any breaks, though, right, Isla? I love you too much to ever get tired of being around you,” his words are light, no hint of something under them.
“M-me too, Minie,” Isla replies, trying to prevent herself from ripping her hand out of his grasp.
She tosses in the nickname randomly after coming up with it on the spot. Couples have pet names for each other, don’t they?
He hums again, blushing at the new name he’s been given and releases her hand, bringing it up to his lips and kissing her knuckles.
“Let’s not keep them waiting.”
In all honesty, Isla is less terrified of meeting OT2B than she would have been a month ago. Back then, when she still retained her sense of anonymity, Isla always daydreamed about meeting her idols, always feared saying something inappropriate or accidentally tripping over her feet. But now they’re a welcome presence as Jaemin’s focus is shifted off of her for the first time since they’ve met.
She almost sags from relief but holds firm, not wanting the boys to get alarmed, at least not until she knows how mindful they are of the situation. For all she knows, the rest of OT2B could have easily been the one to push Jaemin in this direction.
“Jaeminie! We were getting worried! What took you so long?” Seojoon asks in rapid Korean, not giving Isla the chance to even pretend to understand.
Kim Seojoon, age twenty - six, is rather tall and broad, shoulders giving him a more traditionally masculine shape than the other members. His legs are long and hugged beautifully by a pair of ripped skinny jeans, a giant bright yellow knit sweater making him appear sweeter than he usually is on stage. His hair is buzzed in the back, a mop of curly midnight blue locks plopped on the crown of his head. It stops right below his dark eyebrows, not quite brushing his downturned eyes, a feature that always makes him look sad even if he’s grinning one of his infamous smiles.
“Nothing much. Just the execs being assholes. But don’t fret, they couldn’t do anything about us. Isla wouldn’t sign those papers, would you, baby?” Jaemin asks, the latter half of his statement in English.
She just shakes her head, suddenly shy over having all five pairs of eyes on her frame. Isla doesn’t really know what to say, not having had any time to prepare for this abrupt meeting.
“Don’t be so stressed, Isla, lighten up,” Leo says jokingly, extending his hand.
Despite being the only one in the band with a white parent, Han Leo has beautifully melanated skin, the color of a beach washed in sunshine. He’s dressed simply in a white shirt with a Versace jacket hanging loosely around his shoulders, jeans and a pair of Chucks rounding it out. His hair is golden yellow and cut bluntly across his forehead, giving him the stereotypical Asian bowl cut.
She takes his hand and squeezes once, shaking it.
“Sorry, just . . . a lot has changed lately. The meeting was kind of rough.”
She’s getting better at lying. Shocker what fear can do.
“Sorry ‘bout it. Dating an idol is always rough. Seems it was exceptionally difficult this time,” Leo says, a bit of pity in his words.
Isla’s silly hope flares. Maybe Leo does know something’s off.
“But it’s worth it! Getting to tell the whole world she’s mine is worth the hardship,” Jaemin says, wrapping his arms around her waist protectively - possessively - and placing a kiss on her cheek.
She blushes furiously, the PDA embarrassing her.
“I hate that it dragged you guys into it, though. I wish it wasn’t so messy.”
Leo opens his mouth to say something but Jaemin’s phone rings, interrupting him. Jaemin apologizes, stepping into another room to answer it, agitation clear on his features.
Isla jumps at her chance.
“Leo,” she says, quieter than before in an attempt to prevent Jaemin from overhearing, “You’ve got to help me.”
The urgency in her tone has the leader frowning, unsettled by her sudden change in attitude. Even the other boys pick up on it, eyeing each other.
“What?” Leo asks, confused.
“I don’t know any of this. The things he’s told you about me aren’t true.”
She opens her mouth to continue but Jaemin steps back into the room, hands empty of a phone.
“She’s right, you know,” He says, once again trapping her in his grasp, “She’s taller than I told you she’d be.”
He hangs his head as if ashamed.
“I just didn’t want to admit how short I am, ugh. But it’s okay. Everything else I told you guys about her is true. Her favorite food, favorite color, the posters of us she has on her wall . . .”
Pure terror strikes her, Isla frozen in place.
A sudden alarm rings through the air and Isla jumps up, startled. Seojoon mutters something and rises to his feet, exiting the room.
“Food’s done! I know you’ve got to be starving after such a long flight,” Jaemin remarks, leading her gently to the table.
Everything’s been set. Forks and spoons sit next to glittering silver plates, not a chopstick in sight. Small dishes are already on the table, but Seojoon brings in a large dish, revealing her favorite pasta. Now that she thinks about it, all of the foods are on her top ten list.
She’s going to puke.
“Let’s get to know you more, Isla,” Leo says once everyone’s settled in and eating.
“Like what?” she asks, not really looking at him.
She hasn’t looked at any of them, any of the dazzling men she’s longed to be near for years.
“Are you excited to be moving to Korea?” Daehyun asks, looking proud of himself.
The Starlight in her is proud too. His pronunciation is really good.
Bae Daehyun, aged twenty - six, is the shortest member of OT2B, but it never seemed to bother him. At times, he was rather proud of his smaller figure as it automatically made him look less gangly and awkward than the others when dancing. His hair has been dyed cotton candy pink and looks just as soft and airy, little more than a floofy poof on his head. His smile is sweet as sugar in bright contrast to the rather deep baritone in his voice and his role as the main rapper in the group.
“Oh, I’m not moving here. Just here to visit for a bit,” she says, popping a forkful of food in her mouth to hide the anxiety the man’s words cause.
She wants out of Korea as soon as possible, the mere thought of her staying makes her want to spit out the bite she’d just forced herself to take.
“But didn’t you rent that apartment upstairs with Jaemin?” Leo asks in confusion, munching away in a fashion that would be unappealing if it were done by anyone else.
“Ah,” she squeaks out, looking at the man next to her as he chews happily, soft eyes daring her to elaborate.
Happy, happy, happy. She never thought she’d hope for Matoi Jaemin to be anything but happy.
“Yeah, but that’s just for visiting. So we can have some us time while I’m here,” she explains, pulling something out of thin air.
Jaemin stops chewing.
“I thought you were moving here? That’s what you told me, jagi.”
The Korean endearment sounds heavenly coming out of his mouth but Isla does anything but swoon. Pure panic surges through her system. No way in hell she’s staying here.
“Yeah, but then I told you something came up and I couldn’t,” she scrambles, fighting to keep her voice from rising.
Jaemin frowns, Leo looks uncomfortable, and Isla’s stomach sinks to her feet.
He’s in so deep.
“I don’t remember that.”
“I told you. We were on the phone for almost an hour,” Isla says, hoping that’s not too outrageous; she has no idea how long she and Jaemin supposedly talk for or if they talk at all.
“Oh, yeah,” Jaemin says after a moment, tilting his head, “That thing with your job, right? How could I forget?”
How could he indeed.
But Jaemin brightens just as quickly.
“And then you had to go before I could tell you I talked with one of my managers. He said you could get an internship working under him. It’s unpaid, of course, but don’t worry, I’ll support you.”
Isla feels like a caged animal, desperately searching for an escape.
“Let’s . . . talk it over after dinner, okay? I don’t want Seojoon’s delicious food to get cold,” Isla says, purposefully speaking the elder’s name louder than necessary and catching his attention.
“You like?” Seojoon asks eagerly.
Isla nods and takes another bite. It’s the first time she’s told the truth all evening.
“Yes, it’s very good. Thank you for cooking it.”
Seojoon’s chest seems to swell with pride and he grins. Isla is momentarily taken aback. There’s always this untouchable aura surrounding them when they’re all dolled up with staff members swarming them constantly. But here, in their home, they seem real.
And so Isla allows herself to relax if for no other reason than to keep herself from passing out right in her food, finally falling naturally into a half-understood conversation with everyone (after all, Jaemin won’t try anything in front of them . . . right?). Jaemin beams as his members and the love of his life converse, making each other laugh and smile. It’s just like he knew it’d be.
Isla really is perfect.
After everyone is stuffed and the table’s cleaned, Isla stands up and stretches, gathering her few essentials.
“Where are you going, baby?” Jaemin asks, coming to stand by her.
“Oh, ah, just to my hotel. I can catch a taxi no problem,” she says, hoping Jaemin won’t make a fuss of it and she can leave once and for all.
In all honesty, she has no idea how to do that at all. Isla just plans on walking back to her company-provided hotel. She knows it can’t be too far from here.
“Nonsense, Isla,” Leo says, “You’re our guest.”
“Yeah, baby, just stay here for the night,” Jaemin says, cradling her hand gently.
He really is obsessed with it.
“Oh no, I don’t want to be a bother,” Isla stammers, trying to step back.
“It’s no bother at all, Jaemin says, “And besides, I want to take you to our apartment. You haven’t seen it in person yet.”
Isla blinks, rapidly fishing for an excuse.
“I don’t have any of my things,” she says, smiling sheepishly.
“You can just borrow mine,” he offers simply.
Isla can’t think of another thing to say, so she gives in, seeing no real other choice.
She’ll just have to sneak out while he’s sleeping. Her flight home is in the morning after all.