I Was Born for This
‘Do you not blame your fans for overanalysing incidents like this?’
‘Why would we … blame our fans?’
‘Because it’s their fault,’ says Dave, raising his hands into the air in pretend innocence. ‘You can see it. I can see it. Your fans take any scraps of evidence they can for their wild theories – whether that’s “Jowan”, or anything else – and manipulate it into something they can’t not believe. They’re believing lies, Jimmy. Not just believing – putting hope in these lies, caring deeply about these lies. Doesn’t that bother you?’
My mouth has gone very dry. I glance at Cecily again. She is still looking at me.
‘Look, what do you wanna hear?’ says Rowan suddenly, interrupting. ‘Me and Jimmy are not in a relationship. We’re friends. No matter what the fucking fans say. They can do whatever they want. We can’t stop them. We know we’re telling the truth. That’s enough.’
‘Oh, I know that’s the truth,’ says Dave. ‘Don’t you think I’d rather be publishing the truth?’
Everyone in the room is silent.
‘About Bliss Lai, I mean,’ he says. ‘Your girlfriend.’
‘Yeah, I got that,’ Rowan growls.
‘You Ark boys are getting yourself tangled up in this huge web of lies,’ says Dave, leaning back into his chair and smiling sadly at us. ‘And I just worry, I suppose, that the fans – all these hundreds of thousands of, let’s face it, impressionable teenage girls – are the ones who are going to suffer in the end. And I want to know how you all feel about that.’
‘We’ve done nothing,’ says Rowan. His voice is calm, but somehow, he’s never sounded so scary.
‘You’ve lied all this time. Lies by omission, lies by not telling the truth. About Bliss, and Jowan.’ Dave smiles, and looks directly at me. ‘Even Jimmy lied for a long time to his audience about what he was—’
And it all seems to happen in under a second. Lister shoves his chair back, stands up, and grabs Dave by the collar, hoisting him out of his seat, his free hand curling into a fist, Cecily jumping towards us and crying out at him to stop and Rowan standing too, shouting garbled swearwords and ‘How fucking dare you?’ and I sink further and further and further into my chair, hoping it might swallow me entirely, transport me to another dimension where none of this is happening, and Dave laughs and says again, ‘Now that’s honesty.’
Honestly, thank God today is a game-changing day in Jowan fandom history, because if it wasn’t, I would be having an awkward time, instead of a great time, which is what I’m definitely having, because it’s impossible to be unhappy knowing that Jimmy and Rowan are in love with each other.
The only plan for the day is The Ark fandom gathering at a Wetherspoon’s in Leicester Square tonight. Mac has been skulking around, talking to Juliet at every single opportunity. He talks all the way through us trying to rewatch last night’s WCMA performance. Then he talks all the way through us trying to watch some of their old YouTube videos.
But no. I’m not going to rise to it. I am not going to let Muliet ruin any of it.
I ask God to give me a bit of extra patience. Because every time Mac speaks, I sort of want to put an entire bag of cotton wool in his mouth.
I didn’t exactly tell Mum about the nature of the fandom meet-up – that it’s at a pub in the evening – because if I had, she’d have been even more eager to stop me going. But I’m eighteen. I can make my own choices. I’ll be going to uni next month, living my own life.
And I know Mum still thinks I’m a kid. Most adults see teenagers as confused kids who don’t understand much, while they’re the pillars of knowledge and experience and know exactly what is right at all times.
I think the truth is that everyone in the entire world is confused and nobody understands much of anything at all.
Juliet has been deciding what to wear for twenty minutes. Relatable. Thankfully, I planned ahead and only brought a few outfits with me, otherwise I too would have been hurling clothes around the room and groaning at the wardrobe.
‘But, it’s not like a party, is it?’ she says.
‘No, but we’ll be at Spoon’s.’
‘Spoon’s isn’t fancy,though.’
‘But it’s not a dress event, is it?’
‘Nah. Smart-casual, I reckon.’
I myself am wearing black mom jeans and a loose stripy top – my go-to outfit for when I think I might come into contact with cool people. And the other Ark fans are people I definitely want to impress.
‘Mac’s coming tonight, right?’ I ask her.
She turns to me, a black-and-white skirt in one hand, and high-waisted shorts in the other. ‘Yeah, of course? Why?’
I shrug. ‘I dunno. He doesn’t seem like he actually likes The Ark that much.’
Which is true. There was barely any reaction from him while The Ark were performing last night, while Juliet and I were trying not to scream too loudly or say ‘I love my boys’ too many times. Mac had just sat and watched.
I’m not going to go as far as to say he’s been lying about liking The Ark just so he can get with Juliet, but …
That’s exactly what I think.
‘Also,’ I continue, ‘he’s very annoying.’
Juliet snorts, thinking I’m joking. Then she realises I’m not. ‘What! What d’you mean?’
‘He just … He tries to make every conversation about him.’
Juliet frowns. ‘Nah, I think he’s just nervous.’ She flicks her hair, strikes a pose, and raises her eyebrows at me. ‘I mean, who wouldn’t be nervous to meet Juliet Schwartz, am I right?’ She starts to strike several fashion poses in a row, which does kind of make me laugh.
‘And,’ she continues, ‘he’s just not as … I don’t know. He’s not as fangirly as we are. He’s not as weird as us.’
He seems pretty weird in my opinion, but in more of a conventionally attractive way, like the protagonist of an indie movie, which I expect is why Juliet likes him. Being a male fan of obscure old bands is, for some reason, more acceptable than being a female fan of a twenty-first-century boy band.
There’s a pause, and then I say, ‘Anyway, I cannot believe you brought this many clothes with you! It’s like you’re planning to stay at your nan’s for the next four months!’
Juliet freezes on the spot and turns to me. She opens her mouth, and for a moment, I feel as though she’s about to say something very serious, but then she just chuckles and says, ‘Yeah, I know right?’
The only person who seems to have no degree of nervousness about tonight’s event is Mac. Must be easy to socialise when you’re a cute boy with a cool taste in music, I suppose.
We hop on the tube and arrive at Leicester Square at around 7.30 p.m. – a sensible half-hour later than the start of the event – and The Ark fans are immediately visible. A gathering of at least fifty people of our own age are scattered around one side of the square, sitting or standing in little groups, chattering and laughing and taking selfies.
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