Hyejin was sat in the dark on her laptop, wrapped up in a blanket when Jiho got home. The door closes, and the sound of Jiho swearing as she stumbles over something – Hyejin’s shoes, probably – echoes down the hallway.
“Why are you sitting with the lights off?” Jiho asks, flicking the switch and flooding the room with light.
Hyejin winces as the room brightens. It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust. A quick glance at the time tells her she has been sitting in the dark for at least two hours. “It’s atmospheric,” Hyejin answers.
“Sure.” Jiho says, sitting down beside her. They both knew it was because Hyejin had been too lazy to get up to turn the lights on when it got dark. “You’re looking at photos from that fan site again, aren’t you?”
Hyejin pulls her laptop closer to her chest, angling the screen away from Jiho. “Don’t be nosy.” She says. “They are good photos.”
“Why don’t you send the fansite master a message, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.” Jiho suggests. She clears her throat and starts to talk in an exaggerated version of Hyejin’s voice. “Dear Pink Whale, I look at the photos you take of Mystery almost every day, you’re really good with a camera and your shots are perfect. One time I even printed a bunch of them out and plastered them over the walls of my flatmate’s room as a prank. Love, Shin Hyejin.”
Hyejin groans, slouching down on the sofa.
“You’re so cute, my Hyejin burrito.” Jiho coos, pulling out her phone and snapping a bunch of pictures.
Hyejin rolls her eyes.
“What would you say if I told you that I’ve been thinking of starting a fansite of my own?” Hyejin asks when Jiho’s done making a spectacle of her.
Jiho looks up from her phone. “You are?”
Hyejin shrugs. “I have the time and the equipment.” She says. Working as freelance photographer had its perks, but at the moment things were stale. “The only real pictures I take are of you, Yewon or the neighbour’s cat. I need some variety. I feel like it could help build up my portfolio. Maybe even help get me a job at a studio or something. It will get me out the flat too. What do you think?”
“I think it sounds like a good idea.” Jiho says, reaching out to take Hyejin’s hand in her own. “Just promise me you won’t overwork yourself.”
Hyejin nods. “I promise.”
“So… a fansite, huh?” Jiho says. “For Mystery, I’m assuming? Do you think you will get to meet Pink Whale?” Jiho asked.
“Yeah, for Mystery. Yewon’s always complaining that they have barely any fansites following them.” Hyejin says. “I’m not really invested in any other group to follow them around taking photos.”
“I hope you get to meet whoever it is behind Pink Whale.” Jiho says, laying her head on Hyejin’s shoulder. “Shin Hyejin. Photographer extraordinaire and now fansite master.”
“Has a bit of a ring to it don’t you think?” Hyejin laughs.
“Copyright that for your business cards right now.” Jiho demands. “I’m a genius and demand ten percent profit from all future business endeavours.”
Hyejin pats Jiho’s head. “Sure thing, Jiho. Sure thing.”
“Have you come up with a fansite name yet?” Yewon asks, shrugging off her blazer. “Do you want us to help you come up with an idea for a logo?”
Yewon had been thrilled that Hyejin was starting her own fansite. She was Mystery’s number one fan, and the reason that Hyejin had found Pink Whale’s photos in the first place.
“I haven’t got a name yet. I’ve been brainstorming though, trying to pick something linked to the name of one of their mini albums, or maybe one of their songs.” Hyejin says, tapping her pen against a pad of paper.
“What do you think of when you hear Pink Ocean?” Jiho asks. “Asides from pink or whale, of course.”
Yewon pulls out her phone and starts tapping at the screen. “Synonyms of ocean include water, deep, blue, flood, bloom…”
“Bloom is a nice word.” Jiho says, nudging Hyejin in the side. “Reminds me of flowers.”
“Pink bloom? Blue bloom? Ocean bloom?” Yewon suggests.
“I like ocean bloom,” Hyejin says and Jiho nods beside her.
“Me too.” Yewon grins, clapping with excitement. “Oh! You could even make the logo a little wave!”
Hyejin begins sketching on her notepad.
“I can’t believe this is really happening!” Jiho exclaims, linking her arm with Hyejin’s free one.
“You decided at the perfect time too,” Yewon says. “Did you see the news yesterday? They confirmed a comeback for early next month.”
Hyejin nods, finishing off a rough sketch and showing to the others. They both shower her in praise. “Well then, I best start preparing.”
Hyejin was nervous. She was stood waiting to enter the auditorium for Mystery’s comeback showcase, her camera clutched tightly in her hands as Yewon bounced on the balls of her feet beside her. The last few weeks had flown by – Yewon had helped add the finishing touches to her logo and Hyejin had brushed up on her editing skills by going through a bunch of old photos. She had opened up a webpage and a twitter account too. The twitter account had a small handful of followers already and received a few messages of support from kind strangers excited to see her photos. Hyejin suspected that was Yewon’s doing, but she wasn’t exactly complaining.
Yewon had spent the time in the run up to the comeback filling Hyejin in on every last detail about Mystery. Hyejin had been a casual fan – she had known their names and roughly their ages, but Yewon let her know their birthdays, favourite foods, music artists and colours. There had been several evenings when she had come over to Hyejin and Jiho’s place and they had binge watched all the backstage interviews and clips they could find.
Hyejin was definitely fully educated on Mystery now, but as Yewon pulls her into the venue, Hyejin feels the excitement in her stomach turn to dread. It was intimidating, seeing the other fansite masters with their cameras. She felt so out of place. Hyejin stops in her tracks.
“Unnie?” Yewon tugs at Hyejin’s arm and pulling her forward. “You okay?”
“Just a little nervous.” Hyejin says as they take their places. The girl beside Hyejin smiles. She is holding a camera too.
“It’ll be fine.” Yewon says, squeezing her arm gently. “You’ve got this. Besides, today is your first day. It doesn’t matter if you take five pictures or twenty, it’s still a start, right?”
“When did you get so wise?” Hyejin sighs. “I’m supposed to be the one comforting you!”
Yewon doesn’t have time to respond – the lights in the room dim and she gasps. “It’s starting!”
Hyejin had decided not to take photos of one member specifically – she was hopelessly indecisive for starters and didn’t really feel like she had a bias just yet, but she also wanted to get as many different photos as she could. Variation would help if she planned to use any of these in her portfolio.
Hyejin lifts her camera and begins to take pictures as the girls take their positions on stage. Mystery has four members: Mimi, Yooa, Seunghee and Binnie. Their fanbase was growing slowing but steadily. They had debuted a year and a half ago with a happy pop song called Cupid that had been stuck in Hyejin’s head for weeks, and the public had grown interested in them for their great vocals and energetic dances.
It takes a while, but the nerves begin to fade. When Hyejin gets into the zone she knows what she’s doing. Yewon was right – today was her first day. She had plenty of time to get used to this. Hyejin took photos of each member individually, a few group shots and of cute moments between the members. They performed the title song from their new mini, Windy Day, and Hyejin lowered her camera to stare in awe as they danced.
Before she knew it, the showcase was over and Yewon was enthusiastically talking to their seat neighbour about the new songs. Hyejin felt a tap on her shoulder and she turns to see the girl with the camera from earlier her at her side.
“Hi, I just wanted to introduce myself because I haven’t seen you around before,” The girl says, gesturing to Hyejin’s camera.
“I’m new.” Hyejin says, holding her camera closer to her chest.
“I thought so! There aren’t that many of us so I tend to recognise people’s faces. I’m Hyojung!” She says, holding out her hand. “What’s your fansite name?”
“I’m Hyejin. It’s Ocean Bloom,” Hyejin answers, shaking Hyojung’s hand.
“I’ll make sure to check out your photos later,” Hyojung says, letting go of Hyejin’s hand and grinning brightly. “It was nice to meet you Hyejin-ssi. I’ll see you around?”
Hyejin nods and Hyojung grins again before she wanders off. Hyejin frowns – she had forgotten to ask Hyojung’s fansite name.
“She seemed nice,” Yewon says, helping Hyejin put away her camera.
Hyejin nods. “Want to get some food?” Hyejin asks and Yewon nods, reaching out for her hand and pulling Hyejin towards the exit.
Hyejin was sprawled across the sofa with her head in Jiho’s lap when she gets a flurry of notifications. She had turned on notifications for a few of her favourite fansites and they had all started to post pictures from the showcase. Hyejin scrolled through them all, sharing tweets with Yewon who spammed her with stickers in response. When Hyejin stumbles across the HQs posted by Pink Whale, she sits up straight.
“What?” Jiho asks, glancing away from the TV to look at Hyejin.
“I must have been sat near Pink Whale,” Hyejin explains.
“Seriously?” Jiho asks, pulling Hyejin’s phone from her hands so she could scroll through the photos. “How can you tell?”
“The angles they were taken from… they look pretty similar to mine.” Hyejin says, snatching her phone back and showing some of her own photos to Jiho. “There was a fansite sat directly next to me, but there were some in front and behind too.”
“Well damn. You practically met your idol.” Jiho says.
“They’re not my idol.” Hyejin pinches Jiho’s arm. “I just like their photos.”
“I know, I know.” Jiho pats her knee. “It’s just funny don’t you think? A month ago, you were sat on this very sofa looking at Pink Whale photos in the dark and today you were stood a few meters away from them, both breathing the same air.”
“Things change quickly.” Hyejin says and Jiho’s face becomes serious again.
“For the better?” Jiho asks, vague but pointed.
“Of course.” Hyejin’s phone buzzes and she glances at it to see her follower count slowly rising. Then a message from Yewon with a screenshot. Pink Whale is following her. Almost immediately after Hyejin opens the message, Yewon is phoning her.
“I have to be quick because I’m supposed to be studying me and if my parents catch me, they won’t be pleased but – unnie. Pink Whale is following you.” Yewon whispers down the phone.
“I noticed,” Hyejin laughs.
“You’ve made it.” Yewon sighs. “Okay, I need to go, I hear footsteps, but we are talking about this tomorrow!”
Hyejin laughs again as Yewon hangs up and she opens twitter, looking at the notification for herself. Things definitely had changed.
Mystery holds an outdoor fan meeting during the first week of their comeback. Hyejin feels even more nervous than she had at the showcase – Yewon is at school and so she was alone. She tried not to let it get to her. A few hours and then she could head back home, change into a onesie, and edit her pictures. Then she could read everyone’s comments. Hyejin had been to another event earlier in the week and once again her follower count began to rise and the comments under her photos came flooding in. It was the extra motivation Hyejin needed alongside Jiho and Yewon’s encouragement to push past the anxiety and get out the house.
The weather is appropriate – it is a windy day. Hyejin is thankful she had dressed warmly, in a custom-made hoodie Jiho had surprised her with a few days previous. It was white, with her fansite name and logo printed in light blue on the chest. Hyejin felt sorry for Mystery – they had coats on, but they were bare-legged and still looked freezing up on the stage that had been set up. Their managers must feel sorry for them eventually as than fan meeting ends, and the girls are rushed off with hot packs to some place warmer.
Hyejin is in the middle of packing up her equipment when she spots Hyojung, or more accurately, Hyojung spots her. She waves and walks over, backpack over her shoulder.
“I love your hoodie!” Hyojung says. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good, still getting used to things,” Hyejin says. “I take photos for a living so this is different to what I’m used to.”
“Oh? I’m envious, that sounds so cool. I picked up photography as a hobby just before Mystery debuted and then just got pulled into this strange world. I wouldn’t change it for the world though, I’ve grown to really love it.” Hyojung says. “I was going to say, I saw some of your photos from the showcase and they looked really nice. No wonder, you must know all the secret photography and editing tricks.”
“I guess, I’m still learning though.” Hyejin laughs. “I wanted to ask; I never caught your fansite name when we spoke last time.”
“Oh – I’m Pink Whale!” Hyojung says and Hyejin’s heart stutters in her chest for a second.
“I love your photos.” Hyejin blurts out before she can stop herself and she slaps her hands over her mouth in embarrassment. Hyojung laughs. “Sorry. I just. Your photos are really great. Actually, they are what inspired me to start up my own fansite.”
“Really?” Hyojung looks flushed, but Hyejin can’t tell if it is from the cold air or Hyejin’s compliment. “I… wow. I’ve gotten a lot of comments on my pictures but hearing it inspired you to start doing this too is really something else.” Hyojung pauses then. “This is a bit bold, but I don’t suppose you would want to go for coffee? I really would like to learn more about photography from you and get to know you better if you’re not against it. You can ask away about my experiences taking fansite photos… You don’t have to say yes, I know it is sudden!”
Hyejin hesitates. If Jiho were here, she would be shouting “Go for it!”. Hyejin had been looking forward to being warm at home but she could be warm with a hot drink in a cute café too. Also – this was Pink Whale. Hyejin would be silly not to take up this chance to get to know someone who’s work she had been interested in for over a year now. “Sure,” She says. “Right now?”
“If you’re not busy then yes.” Hyojung says. “I think it would be really nice to have a friend in this industry.”
“Now is perfect.” Hyejin says. “And friends… that sounds really nice.”
Hyojung’s smile is blinding.