Hazel felt as if she were in a dream. The lines between reality and fantasy distorted and there was only him. The screaming girls around her all melted into a messy clump of sweat and background noise and the other boys on the stage - as cute as they were - may as well have been invisible. There was a bright light surrounding him and only him that was a combination of the iridescent stage lighting and Hazel’s own imagination that always seemed to see him as beautiful and gleaming, almost angelic. Every word he sang felt like it was personally for her and each note took her higher and higher above the barrier that separated her from him, making her feel as if she could simply hop over it and close the distance between them.
No matter how many times she saw Ryn in person, it always felt like this. In this state she felt like anything was possible. All her worries and self-doubts were forgotten, and she could do anything simply because Ryn existed and he believed in her; or at least the lyrics to his songs said he did.
As things began to wind down and the show began to draw to a close, so too did Hazel’s feeling of bliss as she had no choice but to return to reality. As always she clinged to every last little bit of the experience as much as she could, craning her neck as far as possible so she could see Ryn up until the very last second when he - along with the other three boys - disappeared behind the stage door. She waited for a little while - hopeful of the chance of an encore - but when it was clear that the boys weren’t coming out again, she joined the bustling crowd of girls as they shuffled towards the exit.
There were happy faces all around. Hazel’s was one of them, but her otherwise pleasant expression was tainted with a hint of sadness and longing. She was already thinking about seeing Ryn again next weekend and a part of her couldn’t wait. Sometimes those seven days felt like agony.
Hazel caught bits of conversations here and there - Max was so cute during his solo, it was so funny when Hayden messed up the choreography, wasn’t that song at the end a new one? - and the enthusiasm of her fellow fans made her smile but she herself remained silent, almost in mourning for the end of a great night. Once outside of the tiny and once over-packed venue, most of the girls disappeared into the night - making their way towards public transport or calling family members to come pick them up - but a few, including Hazel herself lingered, still not ready to let the night end.
The members of Fanatic4 - an underground boyband local to Greekman’s Park (affectionately called Geek Town) - always left the concert venue via a hidden back door but fans would persistently wait outside after the show had ended, hoping to catch one final glimpse of the boys before they went home for the night. Hazel had never been so lucky as to actually see one of them after an event, but the online fan groups she was a part of were often flooded with dark, blurry photographs taken of what looked like one of the group’s members walking down the street or scrolling away on a phone whilst sat on the train.
Hazel still hadn’t turned off her battery-powered light stick and its lilac light illuminated the now almost-empty driveway. The only sounds that could be heard were that of a small group of teenagers chatting by the entrance and a girl who was sitting alone on the brick wall that surrounded the venue, gently strumming on an acoustic guitar. Had she bought that guitar with her into the concert venue? Would security have even allowed that?
Opposite Hazel was another girl who looked about her age, also holding a lightstick but hers shone a neon green. When she caught Hazel looking in her direction, the girl flashed her a friendly smile which Hazel tried her best to return, but she was sure she probably just looked as if she were scowling.
All of a sudden, raised voices could be heard and Hazel’s attention snapped round to focus on the group by the entrance. They were cooing and giggling and shouting in tones so painfully high-pitched that Hazel could hardly make out what they were saying. Curious but being careful not to draw any attention to herself, Hazel crept closer to the group to try and get a better idea of what they’d suddenly become so excited about.
Then she saw him and her heart stopped. It was Ryn. The group of teenagers surrounded him and he had his back to the door. He wore plain clothes unlike what he’d been wearing in the performance just prior - a pair of jeans and a dark hoodie - and his sweet, somewhat effeminate face wore a panicked expression. He tried to mask it with a smile as he reached behind him - most likely in an attempt to re-open the door he’d just crawled out from - but one of the girls who was a good few heads taller than him grabbed the arm, preventing him from moving it. Ryn’s expression grew more and more troubled. The girls were making an absolute racket now and more of them were grabbing Ryn, pulling on him, trying to drag him to god-knows-where. They reminded Hazel of a pack of wild animals, working together to capture their prey.
Hazel looked around desperately. There was no-one else around apart from the two girls she’d seen earlier, and both of them were looking as concerned as she felt. Where were the other members of the group? The group’s staff? Why was Ryn out here all alone instead of going out through the back door like he normally did? The only thing that Hazel knew for sure was that she couldn’t let anything happen to Ryn. Not giving herself enough time to think, she approached the group skittishly.
“Let him go,”
Hazel’s voice was so meek that if any of them had heard her they didn’t show it, continuing to peck at Ryn like a gang of hungry vultures. She tried again.
“Guys, let him go,” she repeated, her voice still shaking heavily.
This time they paused and all eyes - including Ryn’s - were on her. The girls’ expressions were a mix of curiosity, amusement, irritation, and guilt. Ryn’s expression however, Hazel couldn’t read. The tall girl who had been the first to grab Ryn spoke.
“We just wanted to talk to him,” she said, her eyes narrowing. “When they’re on stage we can’t really talk to them and if they never respond to our messages on social media either, how else are we supposed to get the chance to speak to them? You understand, right? Don’t you want to talk to him too?”
Hazel locked eyes with Ryn for only a second. His gorgeous green eyes that in any other situation she would have definitely gotten lost in, looked less frightened and almost thoughtful now.
“Yes, but you shouldn’t grab him like that. If he doesn’t want to talk to you, you can’t force him.” Hazel said with as much conviction as she could manage.
“Well, why not? Why doesn’t he want to talk to us?” the tall girl all but shouted, looking rapidly between Hazel and Ryn. The other girls had released their hold on the boy but her grip only seemed to tightened. “Is he too good to talk to us? Just because he’s in a boy band?”
Hazel felt a pang in her stomach, wondering if her getting involved had only made the situation worse. “No, but we’re not entitled to him all the time just because we’re his fans. He’s allowed to want some time to himself sometimes.”
Ryn had been watching Hazel up until that point, but then he looked up at the girl who was still gripping onto him tightly. He seemed to notice at the same time as Hazel the girl’s eyes and he recoiled. Something about her eyes looked wrong. They were dark and filled with a kind of pure hatred that Hazel had never seen before. With a screech that reminded Hazel even more of a wild animal, the girl finally dropped Ryn’s arm and practically leaped towards Hazel.
Frightened and confused, Hazel protected her face with crossed arms and the light stick she’d almost forgotten she was holding. The rest of the girls were screaming, frantically asking their friend what was wrong with her, to no response. None of them dared get too close despite their apparent concern, so Hazel knew she was on her own. She couldn’t see Ryn anywhere.
Off into the distance, between her crossed arms Hazel did however, see a white light. It reminded her of the stage light that had illuminated Ryn’s form only less than an hour ago, except the shape it was casting seemed to resemble that of angel wings. For a moment Hazel thought she was dying, but then she realized that the girl hadn’t even touched her yet and still wasn’t touching her.
Around her, Hazel could now see that what looked like a translucent dome that glimmered the same purple as her light stick had formed around her and was preventing the ravenous girl from getting any closer to her. All at once, Hazel decided that if she wasn’t dying then the only other explanation was that she was dreaming or going crazy, so there was nothing she could do besides simply go along with it.
Hazel pointed her light stick at the other girl as if it were a magic wand and the purple dome around her immediately dissolved. Instead, a stream of the same coloured light exploded out of the light stick and wrapped itself around the girl, engulfing her like a lasso. The girl struggled but the strange purple electricity somehow kept her tightly bound.
“Shine a light on your negative emotions and deepest fears, and then they will no longer be able to control you,” Hazel said. “Oh my god, that’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever said in my life.”
Hazel thought she heard a giggle but she was too distracted by the sudden flash of light to react, and then as if they’d all woken up from a bad dream, the tall girl who had previously been trying to rip Hazel’s face off was now bent over on the floor. Hazel was still standing, pointing her light stick that was now somehow lightless at the weakened girl.
Everyone looked confused. Hazel lowered the light stick but remained glued to the spot. The tall girl shakily got to her feet.
“What happened? Did I fall or something?” she asked her group of friends who were still standing a fair distance away, staring open-mouthed. After a short delay, one of them rushed over to assist her friend and the others followed suit.
“I don’t know. Yeah. I think so. That must have been what happened.” she stammered, placing a steading arm around her friend’s shoulder. The group left the concert venue then in complete silence; not taking even a moment to acknowledge Ryn or Hazel who were left staring at each other.