Chapter Two (Mythomania)
She tried her hardest to ignore the situation, ignore everything and pretend that nothing was out of the ordinary.
Her little bubble of denial was soon ruptured when the media began hounding her, sitting in front of her apartment with their cameras and following her when she went to work. The owner of the diner didn’t seem to mind much as business boomed.
And even worse, the emails from Smash Entertainment kept coming, before they turned into phone calls. She could no longer ignore the matter once the priority letters showed up at her house. It made the impossible situation real and caused chill-bumps to race up and down her skin. Isla grew paranoid, the fear that someone would knock on her door and rough her up caused her to finally reply to Smash.
Even when the line of communication was forced open just a week after the LiVe, Isla tried to explain that everything was a mistake, tried to get them to understand the confusion over the phone.
The company wasn't having it. Smash Entertainment demanded she fly to Korea to sort everything out in person, and with no other real option, frightened that someone would show up at her apartment and drag her out, she relented. The arrangements were made for her to fly out the coming weekend.
And now she's here, standing in a busy airport in South Korea, ignoring the shouting the Starlights direct at her as she shuffles between large bodyguards, the camera flashes giving her a headache.
Isla had hoped her impromptu arrival would be kept a secret, that everything would be done off the books without anyone knowing. But lately, nothing has been going to plan.
So really, she shouldn’t be all that surprised by the obscenities being yelled at her, should she? The hateful signs, with blown-up photos of her face defamed with streaks of violent red paint. The tears, both angry and sad, all running down swollen pink cheeks. None of this should be a surprise, none of this should affect her. Isla told herself that she’d stay strong on the exhausting plane ride over, that none of it matters and everything will be explained and eventually return back to normal.
And yet it feels like she’s been thrown in front of some blinded jury, accusations being screamed at her, a life sentence she doesn’t deserve for a crime she didn’t commit. It’s scary. So scary that her hands shake and her breaths are uneven under the stuffy cloth mask they made her wear. Black dots fill her eyes as they speed through the airport, the girl jumping into their black van and ripping off her mask, struggling to calm herself down. She can’t pass out, not here, not in front of these people. Not in a foreign country, squished between two strange and muscled men. She pulls out the water she’d stashed in her bag, spilling a bit of it on her legs as it sloshes about. She downs the whole thing without breaking for air and places a cool hand on her forehead then each of her cheeks, attempting to fully chill out.
Isla is not sure how long the drive takes, her fractured state of mind blurring and pausing time as it sees fit. They arrive eventually though - thankfully before she pukes on one of the poor bodyguards - and rush through some sort of secret entrance.
She’s not even given any time to get her bearings before being more or less shoved into a massive boardroom. Several impressive looking men and women in harsh suits all stare at her, unamused.
Isla tries to straighten up her lousy attire, a band t-shirt wrinkled from the long journey and some plain bottoms, curly hair in all sorts of ebony disarray. No doubt the locks have worked their way into painful knots she’ll have to grit her teeth and detangle later and her toffee-colored skin is oily. She’s a far cry from impressive, unintentionally presenting herself more like a homebody and less like the dazzling temptress they’d all expected her to be. After all, Isla Montgomery must have been astounding for Matoi Jaemin to break the number one rule of idoldom - no relationships.
Someone gestures to an empty chair and she takes it, plopping down, drained of energy. It’s clear that these company heads already have a clear impression of her and it’s unlikely that sitting down properly would change that in the slightest.
“Let’s just get down to business, shall we? Now that everyone has arrived,” says a blonde man, relatively young and with a haughty accent, possibly an Aussie.
Isla feels immense relief at his words. If ‘everyone’ is here already, then OT2B won’t be showing up - Jaemin won’t be showing up.
She never thought she’d be so relieved to miss out on meeting her bias, the man she’d daydreamed about dating since she was fifteen years old.
“You need to break up with Matoi Jaemin,” the blonde man says, disdain coating every syllable.
“That’s the thing though, we were never together in the first place. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you guys. I don’t know what went through your idol’s head, but we are not dating. We’re not even friends! I don’t know Jaemin personally. All I know of him is what any other Starlight does,” Isla says, hoping that they’ll hear her out now that they’re face to face.
“Playing innocent won’t help you.”
“I AM INNOCENT!” Isla can’t help but shout, “I don’t know him! I don’t know him at all! We’ve never spoken, he’s never gotten in contact with me, none of them have! Until this week, I didn’t know he even knew who I was!”
A quiet murmur rises above the room as her words get translated, executives trying to make sense of the situation.
“So, you’re saying that our idol made all of this up and put the careers of himself and his members in jeopardy for some elaborate prank?”
Isla nods frantically.
“I swear it.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. If you expect us to believe that, you’re quite frankly out of your mind.”
“What do I have to gain from calling him a liar? What do I have to gain from any of this? Do you know how much hate I’ve received? How afraid I’ve been that some psychopathic fan would break into my house and murder me in my sleep?”
The room falls silent.
“I will say this for the last time. I do not know Matoi Jaemin. I am not his–”
The door to the boardroom swings open, hitting the wall with a bang. A very flustered looking guard chases weakly after the idol in question, Matoi Jaemin stepping into the room. Isla is immediately bombarded, Jaemin bounding towards her with a relieved and excited smile, immediately gathering her in his arms. “Baby!” he exclaims, squeezing her tightly, “I’ve missed you so much!” “Jaemin,” Isla begins, attempting to untangle herself from his vice and wrap her head around what’s going on, “I don’t know you.”
He just smiles at her, eyes darting over every single inch of her face.
“It’s okay, Isla, we can stop pretending now. That’s why I went on LiVe to tell everyone about us.”
Everything is a blur. Matoi Jaemin is holding her.
Matoi Jaemin is holding her.
Rapid and angry-sounding Korean flies over her head, Jaemin arguing with the man Isla recognizes as Hwang Hyungmin. His beautiful face twists into an expression so livid, fear licks Isla’s belly, her instincts screaming that she’s in danger. She tries to pull away from him but the idol’s grip on her only tightens until it’s nearly painful.
“Let’s go, Isla. You’re not signing that fucking paper. She’s not signing it, do you understand me?!” He yells in clipped Korean-accented English.
Matoi Jaemin entangles his fingers with Isla’s, hauling the two off somewhere. Isla digs her heels into the floor, but the combination of the slippery tile and Jaemin’s fierce grip prevents her from doing anything.
“Matoi Jaemin!” Isla shouts, finally ripping her hand away from his warm, soft one.
The man turns around, meeting her eyes.
“I’m sorry about them, angel. I’m sorry they were pressuring you to leave me. But that’ll never happen, I know. I’m not mad at you at all,”
She eyes him, looking him up and down, feeling sick to her stomach.
“What is wrong with you? Why are you doing this?”
Jaemin tilts his head, the soft look she adores falling onto his features. Up close, Jaemin is even more beautiful than she thought he’d be, all soft and pretty, reminding her of a fairytale princess more than a prince.
“What do you mean?”
His words are accented, though significantly less than what she had expected considering she hadn’t known he could speak English at all.
Isla takes a step back from the man, the uneasy feeling taking over her.
“Why do all of this? Why make a fake relationship and tell everyone about it? You put yourself on the line, put your members on the line, jeopardized my relationship . . . why? You don’t know me. I don’t know you. Why do all of this?”
“Isla . . . of course I know you. I know everything about you. You’re my girlfriend,” he says sweetly, confusion in his words.
The girl just stares at him, realizing with a sudden, terrifying epiphany that Matoi Jaemin is completely out of his mind. His eyes, his posture, hell, even the smile on his face. He genuinely believes that she’s his girlfriend. Truly.
Pity wells up inside of her, a sick feeling in her stomach.
“We should break up. I think it’ll be best for both of us,” she says, words tumbling out of her mouth before she can think them through.
There’s silence for a moment, then seven more, as Jaemin just stares at her, attempting to understand what she said.
“You want . . . to leave me?”
His words are quiet, hushed under the fluorescent lighting.
This is a pinnacle moment, Isla’s sure.
“Yes . . .”
Too bad she made the wrong choice.
The tears are instantaneous, Jaemin seeming to collapse onto himself, nearly falling to the ground.
Isla rushes to help him, only to meet his tear-filled gaze, his dark eyes seeming so utterly broken.
“What’s wrong with me? Why don’t you love me anymore, Isla? You said you’d always be with me, even when no one else was. You said it! You said it!”
His grip on her wrists is strangling despite the shakiness of his fingers.
“I what? Jaemin, don’t cry, please don’t cry!”
He continues to sob loudly, people from the boardroom exiting and seeing the two in such a state, Jaemin defeated on the floor and sobbing while a panicked Isla tries in vain to comfort him.
“What’s wrong with him? Jaemin? Jaemin, are you okay?”
He ignores his superiors, clinging onto Isla like a lifeline.
There’s more yelling, Jaemin’s voice wavering in and out as he crushes Isla to his chest, the girl feeling claustrophobic.
“Look what you did!” He gasps out, barely able to take a breath, “Look what you monsters caused! She's going to leave me! Leave because you won't accept that I’m in love with her!”
Isla tries to pull away from the hysterical man with no success, despite his deep trembling.
“If you won't let us be together, I'll leave OT2B,” he says, fingers pressing too hard into her hips.
A strangled gasp leaves Isla as Jaemin says the words every Starlight fears hearing.
“Jaemin, don't!” She says, managing to wiggle free enough to cradle his face in her hands.
His cheeks are flushed, and red hot, salty tears slip down and leave streaks. Isla brushes them away frantically, trying to get him to calm down.
“Don't go saying stuff like that, okay? We can still be friends, alright?” Isla scrambles, disregarding that they were never friends in the first place, “So, don't go saying that! Leaving OT2B?! What about the boys?”
The idol shakes his head violently, still crying. He grasps her hands in his, pulling them away from his face.
“No. No. The boys understand. They know how much I love you. More than anything, more than anyone. I won't let that be tampered with, no matter what.”
Isla shoots a terrified look at the horde of suits still gawking, praying they'd save the day. But alas, they do nothing.
His face brightens a bit at her softening tone.
“I can't be the cause of all of your dreams, all of everyone’s dreams, to go down the drain. It hurts right now, but I promise you'll feel better in no time. It'll hurt for me too, but we'll heal. Trust me.”
Never in her life did she think she'd dump Matoi Jaemin, the man she's admired for so long, the one she thinks about every day, the one who can make her smile like no one else. She's not lying. It hurts. It really hurts her soul to see him so wrecked. If Isla didn't know he was sick, that he needed help, she could never have had the courage.
He's crushed. Jaemin’s precious face crumples and he collapses onto the floor, undoubtedly bruising his flawless skin. He doesn't speak for a moment and it seems that everyone holds their breath, hoping that her words finally got through to him.
“If you leave me,” he says, voice so quiet she can barely hear it, looking up at her with eyes too strong, too invasive, “I'll jump.”
His eyes pan to the window beside her, the glass displaying a large balcony at the side of the building.
Ice runs through her veins and she shrieks, launching herself at him and holding on like her life depends on it (maybe it does) and squeezing, the emotional rollercoaster she's experiencing causing tears of her own to fall down her cheeks.
The man below her looks at her tears like they're a marvel, some strange, incomprehensible item.
“Why are you crying? Didn't you want me to leave?” He asks, genuine confusion in his tone.
He hates seeing Isla cry, it hurts him more than anything.
“No. No, no, no, no, no. You can't do that, Jaemin. Never, never think about that. You - you have to live, okay? You have to.”
“What for?” He asks, thumb gliding across her wrist.
He's too calm for a person who'd just threatened suicide.
Her brain is fried.
“For me!” She pleads, unaware of the gravity of her words, “Live for me until you can live for yourself, okay? Please?”
He seems to contemplate her words.
“So . . . you're not going to leave me?”
Isla shakes her head.
Her hands are shaking but she doesn’t notice, looking at his face intensely, searching for confirmation.
“You'll still be my girlfriend?”
“Yes. Yes, I'll be your girlfriend,”
He grins then, that familiar smile she has saved a thousand times on her phone.
“I love you so much, Isla,” he replies, finally returning her vice grip of a hug, “So, so much.”
Isla doesn't resist when he kisses her, slowly for a moment before pulling away, only to dive back in, the couple making out on the floor. She doesn’t know if she enjoys it or hates it, zoning out so completely that she can’t even feel him against her skin.
She’s painfully aware that she just made everything worse, that she's sucked herself into a pit without an end in sight and no one to help her.
But what could she do? What else could she do but tell him everything he wanted to hear when he dangled his very life in front of her eyes?
When they finally break apart, Isla's lips are sore and bruised and a dead feeling lurks in her stomach.
“I love you too, Jaemin,”
Needless to say, she never signs those papers, not daring to look at the shell-shocked execs.
“Where are we going, Jaemin?” Isla asks, squeezing his hands tightly, afraid he'll snatch it away and do something awful.
“Home, baby. The boys are so excited to finally meet you.”