I Was Born for This
Bliss is Rowan’s girlfriend. She’s a normal person, and a secret. Bliss doesn’t want to be famous. Several large blogs and magazines have a lot of information on Bliss, and have been threatening to run a story on it for several weeks, but our publicity team (headed up by Cecily) is one of the best around and have managed to keep them at bay. For now.
The press don’t care what we want. They just want more clicks.
Cecily looks up at Rowan. She pats him on the leg.
‘Don’t worry about it, babe,’ she says. ‘I’ll sort it.’
She will. She always does.
There’s another thunderous round of applause, and then the lights dim. Time for another performance. The giant LED screen at the back of the stage starts showing rain falling on a window, and the auditorium explodes into the sound of rainfall but at the same time, everything feels oddly quiet too. It surprises me for a second, makes me feel like I’ve been taken out of the room, not really here. I half expect to feel cold drops of fresh water on the back of my neck, instead of the stuffy air of a packed theatre and the hum and the glare of the stage lighting. Makes me think of England. I miss England. When was the last time I saw it rain? Two months? Three? When was I last in England again?
I stop thinking when a tiny red light catches my attention and I realise a camera is pointing directly at me.
Two a.m. comes and we sit and watch them walk the red carpet.
Jimmy and Rowan and Lister. Our boys.
As soon as they appear, I can’t stop smiling. They look so happy to be there. So excited. So proud of themselves and their achievements.
They look like they were born to be together.
I love them. God, I love them.
Rowan is the serious one. The adult of the group. He seems a little more grown-up and composed and eloquent in interviews. He’s probably the quietest of the three.
Lister is the most popular. The one on all the posters. Personality-wise? People call him the ‘bad boy’ but that phrase honestly makes me cringe. He’s extrovert and cheeky. And he wins all the ‘most beautiful’ magazine contests.
But Jimmy’s my favourite because he feels so real. You can tell he gets a little nervous at events like this. His voice shakes a bit in interviews and when they accept awards. He tries his best to smile even when he’s not totally comfortable. He’s more complex than Rowan or Lister, or maybe I just understand him better, and I relate to him, the way he tries his best even when he feels awkward and smiles even when he’s not okay.
I wonder if I’ll be able to tell him that when I meet him at the meet-and-greet on Thursday. I wonder what I’ll be able to say when faced with Jimmy Kaga-Ricci.
‘So which one is your favourite?’ Mac asks Juliet with a sly grin after the livestream cuts to the adverts.
The three of us are now huddled under blankets, an array of demolished snack foods surrounding us. Juliet has hooked her laptop up to the TV so we can watch it on a big screen. I don’t even feel slightly tired yet.
‘Rowan,’ says Juliet without any hesitation whatsoever.
‘He’s … so protective of the other two,’ says Juliet, and there, in the eyes, while she’s talking, I can see the Juliet that I have fangirled about The Ark with for the past two years on Facebook Messenger. ‘He’s like the dad of the group. Which is adorable.’
Mac seems to think that she’s joking, or something. He nudges her in the side. ‘Not because you think he’s attractive …?’
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. It’s obvious Mac has a thing for Juliet, sure, but does he have to be so gross about it?
Juliet laughs, as if what he has said is a very cute and cheeky joke. ‘No! Oh my God, shut up.’ She playfully slaps him on the arm. Literally what the fuck? The Juliet I know would have probably made a throwing-up noise and then asked Mac which one he found attractive.
Juliet continues. ‘Jimmy and Rowan are together anyway. There’s no hope for anyone wanting to get into those pants.’
‘Jimmy … and Rowan?’ Mac gives her a clueless look.
Juliet and I both stare at him.
‘Yeah, Jimmy and Rowan,’ Juliet says. ‘Jowan. You know. Jowan.’
‘Oh! Oh, yeah. Of course. You meant “together” together.’
It’s impossible to be in The Ark fandom without knowing about Jowan – the infamous shipping of Jimmy and Rowan. It originated back in their YouTube days, as soon as Jimmy and Rowan revealed the barest of details about their childhood friendship.
Is it real? Are Jimmy and Rowan really in love with each other and concealing a secret relationship? No one knows, to be honest. There’ve been signs. Convincing signs. A lot of them simply being the way they look at each other, the way they hug each other and look out for each other and stay by each other’s side.
I do ship Jowan. I’ll admit it. I ship it a lot.
Whether it’s real or not, I think they love each other very much.
I look at Mac and wonder how much he really knows about that side of the fandom. How much is he in the fandom, anyway? Does he check @ArkUpdates? Does he take part in discourse and theory discussion? What’s his take on the ‘Joan of Arc’ video, the suitcase conspiracy from two years ago, the bonus-track theory?
I could force his opinions out of him now, but I don’t feel like it because The Ark will be performing in a minute and I don’t want to be in a bad mood.
‘Angel?’ asks Mac, his voice a little more forced. ‘Who’s your favourite?’
I smile sweetly and rest my chin on my hand.
‘It’s such an interesting concept to think about,’ I say. ‘People think boy-band fangirls all just want to kiss the boy-band boys and marry them and live happily ever after. Whereas if you actually asked a lot of fangirls, they probably wouldn’t even say that they had a crush on the boy-band boys. It’s a different sort of love, to be honest. It’s an I’d probably take a bullet for you but I’d probably feel a bit weird if we just started kissing sort of love. Add that to the fact that there’s an extremely high percentage of LGBT+ people in fandom, particularly queer girls, usually because it’s a much more diverse and accepting space than real life, then the percentage of fangirls who are just in it because Lister’s soooo hot is actually quite small. And that’s just one of the many things that outsiders don’t get about fandom.’
Mac’s sly smile drops gradually as I speak. Juliet seems to have momentarily snapped out of her weird flirty persona and is looking between the two of us, intrigued.
‘So … wait … you’re gay, or …?’ he asks.
I laugh. He couldn’t even keep up with what I was saying.
‘Well, no,’ I say, even though I probably would go out with a girl, but I don’t really ever get crushes on anyone, so I just don’t know what I am right now, to be honest. ‘I’m just saying there’s more to fandom than I want to kiss a famous boy.’
He fidgets on the sofa. ‘Oh, yeah. Yeah, I guess so.’
‘So who’s your favourite, Mac? Who would you want to marry and live happily ever after with?’
Juliet finally laughs, and grins at Mac, who clearly looks uncomfortable. Mac then forces out a laugh and just says, ‘Would you really take a bullet for them?’
The adverts end and an announcer comes on stage. When he reads the name of the next act, The Ark, I feel a spike of joy in my heart, a stabbing burst of love and happiness that makes me feel like everything’s going to be okay, as long as our boys are in the world.