Головна I Was Born for This

I Was Born for This

5.0 / 0
Наскільки Вам сподобалась ця книга?
Яка якість завантаженого файлу?
Скачайте книгу, щоб оцінити її якість
Яка якість скачаних файлів?
ISBN 13:
EPUB, 1,04 MB
Завантажити (epub, 1,04 MB)

Можливо вас зацікавить Powered by Rec2Me


Ключові фрази

1 comment
I'm just sooooo grateful for this site
26 May 2021 (06:22) 

To post a review, please sign in or sign up
Ви можете залишити відгук про книгу и поділитись своїм досвідом. Іншим читачам буде цікаво дізнатись вашу думку про прочитані книги. Незалежно чи вам сподобалась книга чи ні, якщо ви відверто і детально розповісте про це, люди зможуть знайти для себя нові книги, які їх зацікавлять.

I was Jack The Ripper

EPUB, 216 KB
0 / 0

I Warned You Welcome to Fall River

EPUB, 271 KB
0 / 0
First published in Great Britain by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2018

Published in this ebook edition in 2018

HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd,

HarperCollins Publishers

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

The HarperCollins Children’s Books website address is


Text copyright © Alice Oseman 2018

Cover design © HarperCollinsPublishers 2018

Alice Oseman asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook onscreen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 9780008244095

Ebook Edition © May 2018 ISBN: 9780008244101

Version: 2018-03-13


‘children say that people are hung sometimes for speaking the truth’

– Joan of Arc



Title Page




Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci


Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci


Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci


Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel R; ahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci


Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci


Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci

Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci


Angel Rahimi

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci


Keep Reading …

Books by Alice Oseman

About the Publisher

‘i was in my thirteenth year when i heard a voice from god’

– Joan of Arc

‘I’m literally dying,’ I say, putting my hand on my heart. ‘You’re real.’

Juliet, having just escaped my hug, is smiling so hard it looks like she might tear her face in half.

‘So are you!’ she says, and gestures to my body. ‘This is so weird. But cool.’

Theoretically, this shouldn’t be awkward. I have been talking to Juliet Schwartz for two years. On the internet only, yeah, but internet friendships aren’t that different to real ones nowadays, and Juliet knows more about me than my closest school friends.

‘You’re a physical being,’ I say. ‘Not just some pixels on a screen.’

I know almost everything about Juliet. I know that she never falls asleep before 2 a.m. and her favourite fanfic trope is enemies-to-lovers and she’s secretly a fan of Ariana Grande. I know she’s probably going to grow up to be the sort of wine-sipping middle-aged woman who calls everyone ‘darling’ and always looks slightly like she’s giving you evils. But I still wasn’t prepared for her voice (posher and deeper than it sounds on Skype) and her hair (she genuinely is ginger, as she’s always said, even though it looks brown on camera) and her size (she’s a full head smaller than me. I’m seventy feet tall so I should have been prepared for that one, really.)

Juliet flattens her fringe and I adjust my hijab and we start walking out of St Pancras station. We’re silent for a moment, and I feel a sudden wave of nerves, which is a bit irrational, since me and Juliet are practically soulmates – two beings who found each other in the depths of the internet against all odds and, just like that, we were a duo.

She’s the sharp-witted romantic. I’m the whimsical conspiracy theorist. And we both live for The Ark, the best band in the history of the world.

‘You’re gonna have to tell me where we’re going,’ I say, smiling. ‘I have no sense of direction at all. I get lost on my walk to school sometimes.’

Juliet laughs. Another new sound. It’s clearer, sharper than on Skype. ‘Well, you are visiting me, so I think I’m supposed to be in charge of directions anyway.’

‘Okay, true.’ I let out an exaggerated sigh. ‘I genuinely think this is gonna be the best week of my entire life.’

‘Oh my gosh, I know, right? I’ve been counting down.’ Juliet pulls out her phone, clicks the screen on, and shows me a countdown timer. It says ‘3 Days Left’.

I start babbling. ‘I’ve been, like, freaking out. I don’t even know what I’m gonna wear. I don’t even know what I’m gonna say.’

Juliet flattens her fringe again. It makes me feel like she knows exactly what she’s doing. ‘Don’t worry, we have today, tomorrow and Wednesday to formulate a plan. I’m going to make a list.’

‘Oh man, you will, won’t you?’

Neither of us have any friends in real life who like The Ark, but that doesn’t matter, because we have each other. I used to try to get people to talk about The Ark with me – my school friends, my parents, my older brother – but no one really cared. They usually just found me annoying, because once I start talking about The Ark, or anything really, I find it kind of hard to stop.

But not Juliet. We’ve spent hours upon hours talking about The Ark and neither of us get tired or annoyed or bored with each other.

And this is the first time we’ve ever met.

We exit the station and step out into the air. It’s pouring with rain. Tons of people. I’ve never been to London before.

‘This rain is so horrible,’ says Juliet, wrinkling her nose. She unhooks her arm from mine so she can put up an umbrella – one of those fancy plastic ones.

‘True,’ I say, but that’s a lie, because I don’t really mind the rain. Even weird August downpours like this one.

Juliet continues to walk without me. I’m just standing there, one hand on my rucksack, one hand in my pocket. There are people smoking outside the station and I breathe it in. I love the smell of cigarette smoke. Is that bad?

This week is going to be the best week of my life.

Because I’m going to meet The Ark.

And they will know who I am.

And then I will be worth something.

‘Angel?’ Juliet calls from a few metres away. ‘You okay?’

I turn to her, confused, but then realise that she’s using my internet name, instead of my real name, which is Fereshteh. I’ve been going by Angel online since I was thirteen. I thought it sounded cool at the time and, no, I didn’t name myself after a Buffy the Vampire Slayer character. Fereshteh means ‘angel’ in Farsi.

I love my real name, but Angel feels like a part of me now. I’m just not used to hearing it in real life.

I hold out my arms and grin and say, ‘Mate, I am living.’

Despite our first-meeting nerves, it turns out that real life really isn’t that different to the internet. Juliet’s still the cool, calm and collected one and I’m still the loudest and most annoying person in the world and we spend the whole walk to the tube station talking about how excited we are to meet The Ark.

‘My mum freaked out,’ I tell her as we’re sitting in a tube carriage. ‘She knows that I love The Ark, but she just said no when I told her I was coming.’

‘What? Why?’

‘Well … I’m kind of missing my school leaver graduation thing for this.’

It’s more complicated than that, but I don’t really want to bore Juliet with the details. I got my A level results last week, and just scraped the already quite low grades I needed to get into my first university choice. Mum and Dad congratulated me, obviously, but I know they’re pretty annoyed that I didn’t do better, like my older brother, Rostam, who got at least an A on every exam he’s ever taken.

And then Mum had the absolute cheek to demand I don’t go to The Ark concert, just so I can go to a pointless school leavers’ ceremony, shake hands with my headteacher and awkwardly say goodbye to the classmates I’m probably never going to see again.

‘It’s on Thursday morning,’ I continue. ‘The same day as the concert. My mum and dad were gonna come.’ I shrug. ‘It’s stupid. Like, we’re not American; we don’t have school graduation. Our school just does this stupid little leavers’ ceremony that’s completely pointless.’

Juliet frowns. ‘That sounds like the worst.’

‘Anyway, I told my mum there was no way I was going to this thing instead of seeing The Ark, but she just kept saying no and we had this huge shouty argument, which was weird, because, like, we never argue. She kept finding all these excuses for me to go, like “Oh, it’s not safe in London”, “I don’t even know this friend”, “Why can’t you go another time?”, blah blah blah. In the end, I just had to leave, because obviously there was no way I was gonna take no for an answer.’

‘Jesus,’ says Juliet, but it sounds like she doesn’t really get it. ‘Are you feeling all right about it?’

‘Yeah, it’s fine. My mum just doesn’t understand. I mean, all we’re going to do this week is sit at home, watch movies, go to one fandom meet-up, and then go to the meet-and-greet and concert on Thursday. It’s not exactly dangerous. And this school thing is absolutely pointless.’

Juliet puts a hand dramatically on my shoulder. ‘The Ark will appreciate your sacrifice.’

‘Thank you for your support, comrade,’ I say in an equally dramatic tone.

Once we reach the top of the Notting Hill Gate station steps, my phone buzzes in my pocket, so I take it out and look at the screen.

Oh. Dad’s finally replied to me.


Mum’ll come around. Just check in with us when you can. I know this school event isn’t very important ultimately. Mum just worries whether you’re making good choices. But we understand you want your independence and we know you only make friends with good people. You’re eighteen, and you are a strong, sensible girl. I know the world is not so bad, whatever your mother thinks. You know she was raised with different values to me; she respects tradition and academic achievement. But I had my fair share of youthful antics when I was a boy. You must be allowed to live your life, inshallah!! And you must give me some writing material, boring girl!! Love you xx

Well, at least Dad’s on my side. He usually is. I think he’s always hoping I’ll get myself into a mildly unfortunate situation so he can write about it in one of his self-published novels.

I show the text to Juliet. She sighs. ‘The world is not so bad. How extremely optimistic.’

‘I know, right?’

We are spending the week at Juliet’s nan’s house. Juliet herself lives outside London, but Juliet suggested it’d be easier for us to go to the fandom meet-up and the concert if we stayed in London for the week. I didn’t have any complaints.

The house is in Notting Hill and Juliet’s family is rich. I became aware of this not long into our friendship when she bought over £500 worth of The Ark merch in an attempt to win a giveaway competition and then didn’t even bat an eyelid when she lost. Over my many years of being in The Ark fandom, I’ve just about been able to save up enough money to afford an Ark hoodie and a poster.

And, of course, a meet-and-greet ticket to see them this Thursday at the O2 Arena.

‘Mate, this is fancy,’ I say as we walk through the door and into a hallway. It’s tiled. Everything is white and there are actual paintings on the walls.

‘Thanks?’ Juliet replies, a slight lilt in her tone suggesting that she has no idea how to reply. Most of the time I try not to bring up how much richer she is than me, because that would be awkward for both of us.

I take my shoes off and Juliet lets me dump my stuff in the bedroom we’re sleeping in. There are a couple of other rooms that I could sleep in – a spare bedroom and an office room – but half the fun of staying at a friend’s house is those late-night deep conversations while you’re tucked up in bed with facemasks on, eating Pringles, with a terrible rom-com on the TV in the background. Right?

After that, I’m introduced to Juliet’s nan, whose name is Dorothy. She’s short, like Juliet, and looks much younger than she probably is, her hair dyed a sandy blonde and kept long. She is wearing designer wellies while sitting at the kitchen table typing away at a laptop, glasses perched on the end of her nose.

‘Hello,’ she says with a warm smile. ‘You must be Angel?’

‘Yep! Hi!’

Okay, yeah, people calling me Angel in real life feels weird.

‘Excited about the concert on Thursday?’ asks Dorothy.

‘So excited.’

‘I bet!’ She closes her laptop and stands up. ‘Well, I’ll try not to get in your way too much. I’m sure you and J have lots to talk about!’

I assure her that she definitely wouldn’t get in our way but she leaves the room anyway, which makes me feel a bit guilty. I never know how to behave around grandparents, since mine are all dead or overseas. Another thing I don’t bring up around anyone, ever.

‘SO!’ I say, rubbing my hands together. ‘What food do we have?’

Juliet swishes her hair and slams her hands down on the kitchen counter.

‘You’re not ready,’ she says, raising one eyebrow.

She takes me on a tour of all the food and drink she bought for this week – pizzas and J2Os being the main features – before asking me what I want right now, and I go for a classic orange and passion fruit J2O, because I feel like I need to be holding something. I hate not having anything to hold while I’m not talking. What do you do with your hands?

And then Juliet says something else.

‘So, if we head out again at around six, I think that should give us enough time to get there.’

I scrape the J2O bottle label with my thumbnail.

‘Er – wheeeeere are we going?’

Juliet freezes, standing over the opposite side of the counter island.

‘To pick up – wait … have I not told you about this?’

I shrug exaggeratedly.

‘My friend Mac is coming down as well,’ she says. ‘To stay. To see The Ark.’

I immediately begin to panic.

I don’t know who Mac is. I haven’t heard of Mac. I don’t really want to hang out with someone I haven’t met before. I don’t really want to have to make any new friends when this week is supposed to be dedicated to Juliet and The Ark. Making friends is effort, making friends with Mac will be effort, because he doesn’t know me, he isn’t used to me and my incessant talkativeness and my deep passion for a teen boy band, and this week isn’t about Mac. This week is for me and Juliet and our boys – The Ark.

‘Did I really not tell you?’ asks Juliet, running a hand over her hair.

She sounds like she feels pretty bad about it.

‘No …’ I say. I sound rude. Okay. Calm down. It’s fine. Mac is fine. ‘But – it’s fine! More pals! I’m good at making new friends!’

Juliet puts her hands on her face. ‘God, I’m so sorry. I could have sworn I told you. I promise he’s really, really nice. We talk on Tumblr, like, every day.’

‘Yeah!’ I say, nodding enthusiastically, but I feel guilty. I want to tell her that I’m not really okay with this, and I hadn’t been expecting this, and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have come if I’d known I’d have to spend the week socialising with some guy I don’t know. But I don’t want to make things awkward when I’ve only been here for ten minutes.

I’ll just have to lie.

Just for this week.

Hopefully God will forgive me. He knows that I need to be here. For The Ark.

‘So, we’ll head out at six, back here for pizzas, put a film on, then the awards start at two, yeah?’ I say, words tumbling out of my mouth.

It’s 5.17 p.m. We’re staying up tonight to watch the West Coast Music Awards, which start at 2 a.m. UK time. Our boys – The Ark, that is – are performing there. The first time they’ve appeared at an American awards show.

‘Yes,’ says Juliet, nodding decisively. Nodding is starting to lose its meaning. I turn round and start pacing the kitchen and Juliet takes out her phone.

‘Looks like the boys have arrived at their hotel!’ she says, staring at the screen. Probably on @ArkUpdates on Twitter – our usual source for everything Ark-related. It’s incredible I haven’t checked it in the last hour.

‘Any pics yet?’

‘Just a blurry one of them getting out of their car.’

I lean over her shoulder and look at the photo. There they are. Our boys. The Ark. Blurry, pixelated smudges, half blocked by huge bodyguards in dark suits. Rowan is leading them, Jimmy in the middle, Lister behind. They seem connected. Like the Beatles on Abbey Road, or a group of toddlers holding hands on a preschool trip to the park.

‘Wake up, Jimjam.’ Rowan kicks me in the shin. Rowan and Lister and I are all in the same car, which makes a pleasant change. Usually we have to arrive at these award shows separately and I have to endure a car ride with a bodyguard who keeps glancing at me like I’m a rare Pokémon card.

‘I’m awake,’ I say.

‘No, you’re not,’ he says, and then waggles his fingers above his head. ‘You’re up there.’

Rowan Omondi is sitting opposite me in the back of our Hummer. He looks hot. Always does. His hair’s been in twists for the last couple of months and his glasses – new – are aviators. His suit is red with white and gold flowers on it – fire against his dark brown skin. His shoes are Christian Louboutin.

He links his fingers together over one knee. His rings make a jangling sound.

‘It’s nothing new. We’ve done this before. What’s whirring?’ He taps his temple and looks at me. What’s whirring. I love Rowan. He says words like he made them up. Probably why he’s our lyricist.

‘Anxiety,’ I say. ‘I’m anxious.’

‘About what?’

I laugh and shake my head. ‘Not how it works. We’ve been through this.’

‘Yeah, but, like, everything has a cause and effect.’

‘Anxiety is the cause and the effect. Double-whammy.’


The anxiety thing isn’t new. By this point, it’s pretty much the fourth member of the band. I’ve been trying to get on top of it in therapy, but I haven’t had the time for many sessions this year what with the European tour and the new album, and I still haven’t really warmed up to my new therapist. I haven’t even told her about the massive panic attack I had at Children in Need last year yet. Still sang anyway. It’s on YouTube. If you look closely, you can see the tear tracks on my face.

We fall into silence. I can hear the screams in the distance. Sounds a bit like a tide. We must be nearly there.

My weird bad feelings are probably half anxiety and half genuine nerves about tonight, plus all the other things I’m sort of constantly dreading. I tend to constantly dread things, even when the ‘things’ aren’t actually dreadful. Currently up there on Jimmy’s List of Things He’s Dreading the Most are signing our new contract and coming home from tour, along with tonight’s performance at the West Coast Music Awards, aka our first ever live performance in America. It’ll be no different to our normal concert performances except that our audience will be the greatest musicians in the world and people who haven’t really heard of us rather than teenagers who know all our lyrics off by heart.

Everything’s sort of changing and happening and I feel excited and scared, and my brain doesn’t know how to deal with it all.

‘I don’t know how you have room to be anxious when we’re finally performing at the Dolby,’ says Lister, who is literally bouncing up and down in his seat with a wild grin on his face. ‘I mean, I feel like I’m gonna shit myself. I think I might, actually. Stay tuned.’

Rowan wrinkles his nose. ‘Can we not talk about poo while I’m wearing Burberry, please?’

‘If we can talk about anxiety, we can talk about poo. They’re basically the same thing.’

Allister Bird. Easy for me to tell he hasn’t had a drink or a cigarette since yesterday – while he does look like he’s about to explode from excitement, he’s subconsciously gritting his teeth and has bags under his eyes. Cecily, our manager, enforced a no-alcohol-for-five-hours-before-events rule on Lister after the Incident at The X Factor that We Do Not Talk About Any More, and he’s not supposed to smoke on singing days, even though he usually does.

No one else can tell that, though. To everyone else, he’s beautiful, perfect, flawless, etc. He’s got the James Dean, Calvin Klein model, I-just-tumbled-out-of-bed look. Tonight, he’s wearing a Louis Vuitton bomber jacket and ripped black skinny jeans.

Lister pats me a little too hard on the back.

‘You’re at least a bit excited about it, right?’ he asks, grinning.

It’s hard not to grin back. ‘Yeah, I’m a bit excited.’

‘Good. Now, back to the important topic at hand: what are the chances of me running into Beyoncé and what are the chances of her knowing who I am?’

I squint out of the car window. It’s tinted, and Hollywood looks darker than it should, but the too-fast beating of my heart is an indiscernible mix of anxiety and excitement and I get a sudden wave of I can’t believe I’m here. It happens less and less nowadays, but sometimes I remember how weird my life is.

How good it is. How lucky I am.

I glance back at Rowan. He’s looking at me, a faint smile on his lips.

‘You’re smiling,’ he says.

‘Shut up,’ I say, but he’s right.

‘You boys should all just try to enjoy yourselves,’ says Cecily. She crosses her legs and doesn’t look up from her phone as she talks. ‘After this week, things are gonna get five hundred per cent more hectic for you guys.’

Cecily, who is sitting opposite Lister, is the only one of us who looks anything like a normal person – she’s wearing a blue dress, tight black curls swished to one side, and she’s got a lanyard round her neck. The only seemingly expensive thing about her is the massive iPhone in her hand.

Cecily Wills is our band manager. She’s only about ten years older than us, but she comes everywhere with us and tells us what to do, where we’re going, where to stand, who to talk to. If we didn’t have her, we’d have literally no idea what we were doing, at all, ever.

Rowan rolls his eyes. ‘So dramatic.’

‘Just keeping it real, babe. The new contract is very different to your current one. And you’ll be adjusting to post-tour life.’

The new contract. We’re all signing a new contract with our record label, Fort Records, once we return home from our European tour later this week.

It’ll mean longer tours. More interviews. Bigger sponsors, flashier merch, and, above all, it’ll mean finally breaking the US. We’ve recently had a top-ten single in America, but the plan is to get us a real audience here, a US tour, and maybe even worldwide fame.

Which is what we want, obviously. Our music spread across the world and our name in the history books. But I can’t say the thought of more interviews, more guest appearances, more tours, more everything, is making me feel particularly thrilled about my future.

‘Do we have to talk about that right now?’ I mutter.

Cecily keeps tapping away at her phone. ‘No, babe. Let’s get back to poo and anxiety.’


Rowan sighs. ‘Now look what you’ve done. You’ve made Jimmy grumpy.’

‘I’m not grumpy—’

Lister drops his mouth open in faux shock. ‘How is this my fault?’

‘It’s both of you,’ says Rowan, gesturing to Lister and Cecily.

‘It’s none of you,’ I say. ‘I’m just in a weird mood.’

‘But you’re excited, yeah?’ asks Lister again.

‘Yes! I promise I am.’ And I mean it. I am excited.

I’m just nervous and scared and anxious as well.

The three of them are all looking at me.

‘Like, we’re performing at the Dolby!’ I say, and find myself grinning again.

Rowan raises his eyebrows a little, arms folded, but nods. Lister makes a whooping noise, then starts to unwind the window before Cecily smacks his hand and winds it back up again.

The screams coming from outside are piercing now and the car comes to a halt. I feel a bit sick. I don’t really know why all this is bothering me so much more today. I’m normally fine. Wary, always wary, but fine. The screams don’t sound like a tide any more. To me, they sound like the metallic screech of heavy machinery.

I’m sure I’ll enjoy myself once we get in there.

I rub my fingers over my collarbones, feeling for my tiny cross necklace. I ask God to calm me down. Hope He’s listening.

I’m wearing all black, as usual. Cigarette trousers, Chelsea boots that are giving me blisters, a big denim jacket, and a shirt that I have to keep pulling on because I feel like it’s choking me. And the little transgender flag pin I always wear to events.

Rowan undoes his seatbelt, pats me gently on the cheek, pinches Lister’s nose and says, ‘Let’s walk, lads.’

The girls aren’t anything new. They’re always there, somewhere, waiting for us. I don’t mind, really. I can’t say I understand it, but I love them back in a way, I guess. The same way I love Instagram videos of puppies tripping over.

We get out of the car and some woman touches up our hair and make-up and some other woman brushes down my jacket with a lint roller. I sort of love how they always seem to appear out of thin air. Men holding massive cameras, wearing jeans. Bald bodyguards wearing black. Everyone’s got a bloody lanyard on.

Rowan puts on his Serious Face. It’s hilarious. Kind of a pout, kind of a smoulder. He’s not so smiley in front of the cameras.

Lister, on the other hand, is flashing his smile all over the place. He never looks miserable in photos. He’s got the opposite of a resting bitch face.

The screams are deafening. Most of them are just screaming ‘Lister’. Lister turns round and holds up a hand, and I dare to take a glance too.

The girls. Our girls. Clawing at a chain-link fence, waving phones, crushing each other and screaming because they are so happy.

I hold up a hand and salute them, and they scream back at me. That’s how we communicate.

We get ushered on by the adults that escort us everywhere. Bodyguards and make-up artists and women holding walkie-talkies. Rowan walks in the middle, Lister walks slightly ahead and I linger at the back, finding myself more excited than I usually am at these awards ceremonies. They’ve got a bit samey in the UK, but this is our first one in America, and that makes it something special. This is our first step into the American music industry, worldwide success and a musical legacy.

We’ve made it from a rundown garage in rural Kent to a red carpet in Hollywood.

I glance up at the California sunshine and find myself smiling again.

Photos are very important, apparently. As if there aren’t already enough high-quality photos of us in the world. Cecily tried to explain it to me once. They need up-to-date HQ photos, she said. They need HQ photos of my hair now that I got the sides buzzed. They need HQ photos of Rowan’s suit, since it’s something special that fashion magazines will talk about. They need HQ photos of Lister. Because they sell.

The three of us reconvene at press photos. I still feel like it’s just us three here, sometimes, even though we’re surrounded by other people constantly – adults swarming round us, putting their hands on our backs and pointing where to stand, before jogging out of the way so the fireworks show of camera flashes can begin. I catch eyes with Lister and he mouths the words ‘shitting myself’ at me, before turning away and sending a blinding smile to the cameras.

I stand in the middle, always, holding my hands together in front of me. Rowan, the tallest, is to my left with a hand on my shoulder. Lister is to my right, his hands in his pockets. We never really discussed this. It’s just what we do now.

The photographers, like the girls, all scream mainly at Lister.

Lister hates this.

Rowan thinks it’s hilarious.

I think it’s hilarious.

But nobody except us three knows that.

‘This way!’ ‘To the right!’ ‘Guys!’ ‘Lister!’ ‘Over here!’ ‘To the left, now!’

It goes on. We can’t really do anything but stare into the flashing lights and wait.

Eventually a man gestures for us to move on. The photographers continue to scream at us. They’re worse than the girls because they’re doing it for money, not love.

I automatically walk close to Rowan and he turns to me and says, ‘Lively bunch tonight, aren’t they?’

‘California, baby,’ I say.

‘It’s a funny old world.’ He stretches out his arms to adjust his sleeves. ‘And I’m sweating one out right now.’

‘I’m the one wearing all black!’

The camera flashes reflect in his glasses. ‘At least you’re wearing socks. I think I can smell my feet already.’ He waves a foot at me. ‘Leather shoes with no socks is a fucking disaster. I’ve got a sweat swamp growing down there.’

I laugh and we walk on.

This is where most of the girls are. A long line of red carpet stretches out before us with the girls on either side, leaning over the fence, waving phones. I used to wish there was time to talk to every single one of them.

Lister dives straight in, walking along the left side of the carpet, stopping every so often to lean in to a girl’s selfie. They grab at his arms, his jacket, his hands. He smiles and moves on. A bodyguard hovers a few steps behind him.

Rowan hates the girls, hates the way they scream and grab him and cry in front of him and beg for a follow-back on Twitter. But he doesn’t want them to hate him. So he goes to take some selfies too.

I don’t any more. I don’t go anywhere near them any more. I don’t mind waving and smiling, and I’m grateful, definitely grateful that they’re here and supporting us and loving us, but … they scare me.

They could just reach out and hurt me at any moment. Someone could have a gun. No one would know. One evil person shows up and I’m dead. And I’m a big target. Being a member of one of the most successful and well-known boy bands in Europe makes you a big target.

Typical me. Paranoia, dread and too much overthinking all crammed into one tiny brain.

Instead, I walk slowly and wave. They wave back at me, smiling, crying, so happy. This is a good thing. They are having the best time.

Near the end of the carpet, we all walk together again, the three of us in a slightly spaced-out line. Sometimes I wish we really could hold hands. You couldn’t give me a billion quid to be a solo artist and do all of this by myself.

It’s stressful. It’s scary. That never goes away. The girls scream and they claw at you. A lot of them only like us because we have nice faces. But as long as we are here, the three of us, and we get to make music, and we get to live this life – playing our music in a new city every week, bringing smiles to millions of faces, leaving our mark upon the world – then everything is good, and fine, and okay.

Rowan glances my way and nods. He pats Lister on the back. At least I’m not alone.

Since Juliet announced that I am not the only internet friend who is coming to stay, things have got seventy times more awkward, because she feels bad about it, and I feel uncomfortable about it, and nobody is fully happy about anything any more.

Fortunately for us, I’m excellent at faking being okay with things, even when inside my brain there is a tiny screaming gnome who is definitely not okay.

I keep the conversation flowing as we walk to the tube station, where we’re meeting Mac, whose surname and entire personality I do not know. I’m good at that – talking, even when there’s nothing to talk about.

Juliet seems happy to go along with it. Especially when I bring up Rowan’s Instagram.

We turn a corner and I spot the red and blue underground sign at the end of the road.

‘So,’ I continue, ‘what’s Mac like?’

Juliet stuffs her hands into her pockets. ‘Well … He’s in The Ark fandom, he’s the same age as us, eighteen, he’s …’ She falters. ‘He’s really into music?’

‘Hmm!’ I nod along. ‘How long have you known him?’

‘Only, like, a few months, but we pretty much talk every day on Tumblr, so I feel like I’ve known him for years, you know? I mean, hopefully he doesn’t turn out to be a forty-year-old fedora-wearing stalker.’

She mimes tipping a fedora, which makes me snort out a laugh. ‘Yeah, hopefully not!’

I wonder whether Juliet feels like she’s known me for years. Even though we have known each other for two years.

‘There he is!’ Juliet points into the crowd pouring out of the tube barriers. I have no idea who she’s pointing at. I spot various guys of our age, and Mac could be literally any of them. Due to Juliet’s very bland description of him, my expectations are low.

And then a guy waves in our direction.

My expectations, as it turns out, are fairly accurate.

He is the definition of an average British white boy.

He sees us – well, he sees Juliet – and waves in our direction. He smiles. I think he’s attractive. Sort of averagely spaced out facial features. That haircut that all the lads are wearing nowadays. Bit like he was designed in a lab. I don’t know, really. He looks like the sort of person I should think is attractive.

Juliet walks slightly forward as he approaches, leaving me standing behind her.

‘Hey!’ she says. She sounds nervous.

‘Hey!’ he says as he reaches her. He sounds nervous too.

They both grin at each other, and then he holds out his arms for a hug, and she stands on her tiptoes and hugs him.

Ah. Think I might have an idea of what’s actually going on here.

‘How was your journey?’ asks Juliet after they separate.

‘Not too bad!’ says Mac. ‘You know. Trains.’

She laughs in agreement.

You know. Trains.

They small-talk for an exasperating two minutes before I’m introduced.

‘Oh! Yeah!’ says Juliet, spinning round in absolute amazement to find that I am, in fact, still there. ‘So this is my friend Angel.’

I feel another flash of weirdness at being introduced as Angel, not Fereshteh. Then again, that’s who I am with these people. The internet people. Angel.

Mac drags his eyes away from Juliet and properly focuses on me.

‘Hey, you all right?’ he asks, but his eyes say, Why the fuck are you here?

‘Hi!’ I say, trying to sound cheerful. I hate it when people say ‘You all right’ instead of ‘hello’.

He looks a bit like an older version of the boys who bullied me on the school bus.

After a long pause, I clap my hands, stop looking at them, and say, ‘Well! Painful introduction aside, let’s get back, because I want to put pizza in my mouth.’

I half expect Juliet to make some sarcastic comment, or to at least agree with me, as she would do if we were talking online, but she doesn’t. She just laughs politely with Mac.

‘Oh, Radiohead are so good,’ Mac is saying on the walk back to Juliet’s nan’s house. I am walking slightly behind Mac and Juliet. Can’t fit three people in a row on the pavement. ‘I know they’re kind of old now, but they’re still relevant. I think you’d really like them.’

Juliet chuckles. ‘Well, you know me, I’ll listen to anything that’s mildly miserable.’

‘I’ll have to send you a link to “Everything In Its Right Place” so we can talk about it,’ he continues, and runs a hand through his hair. ‘It’s so creepy.’

His accent isn’t far off Juliet’s – posh, like the people on Made in Chelsea, but it sounds so much worse coming out of his mouth. Juliet sounds like the kids from the Narnia films but Mac sounds like a movie villain.

‘Yeah, do,’ says Juliet, nodding enthusiastically.

I wouldn’t have thought Juliet would be at all interested in Radiohead. Obviously her number one is always going to be The Ark, but overall she’s more of a fan of pop rock and upbeat stuff. Not miserable old Radiohead.

‘I just really like that sort of classic nineties indie stuff,’ Mac continues. ‘I mean, I guess it’s unusual to be into that sort of music, but, you know, it’s better than being too obvious.’

‘Oh yeah, definitely,’ says Juliet, smiling at him.

‘Anyway, I’m glad I have you to talk about music with,’ Mac continues, grinning. ‘No one at my school is really into the stuff I like.’

‘Like The Ark?’ asks Juliet.

‘Yeah, exactly.’

Mac launches into a monologue about the similarities between The Ark and Radiohead and how he’s sure that they must have been inspired by Radiohead in some of their less upbeat songs but I switch off from the conversation. This guy talks nearly as much as me but has ten times more opinions. I’m sure Juliet sees him as a quirky music nerd, and I’m sure I’m only being negative because I thought I was getting Juliet all to myself this week, but I can’t stop myself imagining him getting some sort of emergency phone call, having to rush back to the train station, get on a train, never to see either of us again.

Not even the presence of Juliet’s nan prevents me from feeling like a third wheel. There’s no avoiding it. Mac and Juliet are Ferris Bueller and Sloane, and I’m Cameron. Except they’re lame and I don’t have a fancy car.

I’m extremely relieved when I retreat upstairs to perform my evening prayers, just because I get to stop listening to Mac’s voice for ten minutes. I ask God to give me strength to be kind and not judge him too hard when I’ve known him for, like, an hour, but a girl can only listen to so many monologues about obscure old bands before she snaps.

Eleven p.m. rolls around and Dorothy has long gone to bed. We’ve had food, and now we’re sitting in the living room, Mac and Juliet on one sofa and me on an armchair, TV playing something on Netflix I’ve never seen before, waiting to watch The Ark walk the red carpet on a livestream at 2 a.m. I’m used to having to lead conversations with most people, but Mac and Juliet seem to be doing perfectly fine now that they’re together.

At five past midnight, the worst happens.

Juliet goes to pee, leaving me and Mac alone in the living room together.

‘So,’ he says, once Juliet has left the living room. He smooths his hair back with one hand and looks at me. So? What am I supposed to do with ‘so’?

‘So,’ I say.

Mac looks at me, smiling. He’s got an awkward sort of smile. Clearly fake, but at least he’s trying to be nice, I guess. And I can see why Juliet’s got a thing for him. His hair’s swishy, his awkward smile is kind of cute, I suppose. He’s almost got some Ark vibes about him, if you put him in some ripped black jeans.

‘Tell me about yourself, Mac.’

He laughs, as if what I’ve said is really weird. ‘Wow, a big question!’ He leans forward, putting his elbows on his knees. ‘Well, I’m eighteen, I just finished sixth form, I’m off to Exeter Uni in a few weeks’ time to do History.’

I nod as if I am super interested in these facts.

‘And, er … well, I guess I’m just a big music fan!’

He laughs and scratches his head, like this is a really embarrassing thing to admit.

‘That’s so interesting,’ I say. I’ve learnt absolutely nothing about him at all. ‘So you and Juliet started chatting on Tumblr?’

He grins sheepishly. ‘Oh, yeah, well, I messaged her a few months back, just to start up a conversation, you know? And we got talking. I think we’re quite similar.’

‘Mmm, yeah, totally!’ I try not to say this in a sarcastic way. Juliet and Mac couldn’t be more dissimilar. Juliet likes memes and dissecting fandom theories. Mac looks like he posts #like4like selfies on Instagram.

‘How about you?’ he asks. ‘Tell me about yourself.’

‘Okay then,’ I say, eyebrows raised, as if I have accepted a challenge to duel. ‘I’m also eighteen, I’ve also just finished school, and I’m going to uni to study psychology in October.’

‘Psychology? That’s pretty cool. Do you want to be a psychologist? Or, like, a therapist or something?’

I hold up my hands and shrug. ‘Who the heck knows, man!’

He laughs, but he looks a little panicked, not knowing whether he should laugh or not. Easier than telling him the full truth, anyway, which is that I chose psychology because it’s the only subject I’m even slightly good at or interested in at school – I’m below average at everything else – and I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

Which is a bit shit, to be honest, especially when your older brother is in his third year of a medicine degree at Imperial College London, and your mum and dad are both teachers, and really you should have ended up with better genes than this.

But I don’t need to think about any of that right now. This week is for The Ark. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I can deal with the rest of my life after.

‘Honestly,’ says Mac, ‘I barely know what I want to be after uni. I mean, I chose history because I find it interesting, but, like, it’s not the sort of subject that leads you into a straightforward career path, unlike what Juliet’s doing, which is so brave obviously, not going down the lawyer route like her parents and going for backstage theatre stuff instead …’

He rambles on for a couple of minutes without leaving pauses for me to speak, and I find myself switching off again. I can actually see why he and Juliet get along. She’s more of a listener.

‘Hey,’ he says suddenly, ‘we should follow each other on Tumblr!’

‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Yeah, cool, sure.’

We both get our phones out of our pockets.

‘What’s your URL?’ he asks.


He laughs. ‘Like Charlie’s Angels? That’s cool. What a classic.’

I’ve actually never seen Charlie’s Angels. ‘Well, my name’s Angel, and you know, I love Jimmy, so, there you go.’

‘Is your name actually Angel? Because that’s really cool.’

I pause, but I end up saying with a smile, ‘Yep!’

Not technically a lie.

‘Mac’s short for Cormac, which is so stupid, because Cormac’s an Irish name and I’m not even slightly Irish–’

‘What’s your URL?’

‘Oh, yeah, it’s mac-anderson.’ I assume that’s his full name. Cormac Anderson. His Tumblr mobile description reads ‘mac, 18, uk. i live for good music and cool shoes’. This makes me have a look across the room to see what shoes he was wearing earlier, and I’m disappointed to find that they’re Yeezys. Why does everyone have Yeezys? Aren’t they like £800?

‘There,’ he says.

‘Cool,’ I say.

We sit in silence for a moment, nodding at each other.

The door opens, and Juliet comes back to us. Thank actual God. Mac looks up at her with immense relief.

She freezes in the doorway and grins, moving her head from me to Mac.

‘You two look like you’ve had … a conversation,’ she says.

‘That is accurate,’ I say.

‘Yeah, we’re BFFs now,’ says Mac, smiling. ‘We don’t need you any more, Jules.’

Jules? I want to die. First ‘You know, trains’ and now ‘Jules’? Jules?

She walks into the room and sits back down on the sofa next to Mac. ‘That’s too bad because it’s only a couple of hours until we see The Ark and you will literally have to kick me out if you think I’m gonna miss that.’

He nudges her and murmurs something I can’t hear from my armchair. She laughs. I get a weird thought that they’re laughing at me, but obviously they wouldn’t do that right in front of my face. Would they? No. They continue their flirty banter and I open up Twitter for the hundredth time in an attempt to escape from the romantic comedy I seem to have ended up in as the comic-relief ethnically diverse side character.

I miss the Juliet from earlier already.

By 1 a.m. I’m constantly refreshing @ArkUpdates for any sign that The Ark are on their way. The red-carpet livestream doesn’t start for another hour, but you never know when someone might get a quick shot of them in their car, or leaving their hotel, or whatever, wherever.

You can never really guess what’s going to happen next in The Ark fandom.

The fandom is one of the biggest on the internet and I’ve been here since the beginning. It’s everywhere – Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube and pretty much every other major social media website – and it’s spreading by the day. Fans range from ten-year-olds who just tweet the boys with ‘FOLLOW ME BACK!!!’ to fans in their late twenties writing fanfiction longer than five novels put together and fans my age, constantly discussing and theorising and loving and hating and always, always thinking about our boys.

I got into it when it started, four years ago, back when The Ark were just posting covers on YouTube. I was there when they got their record deal after one of their videos went viral. I was there when they first performed on Radio 1 and when their first single went to number one in the UK.

I was there through the media shitstorm that occurred when Jimmy, aged sixteen, revealed that he’s transgender – he was assigned female at birth. I was there through all the think pieces. The good ones:

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci: A New Trans Icon.

And the many bad ones:

Has ‘Diversity’ Finally Gone Too Far?

The Ark: A Black Guy, a White Guy and a Mixed-Race Trans Guy.

Is The Ark’s Newfound Fame a Response to Millennials’ Obsession with Diversity?

Is Political Correctness Destroying the Music Industry?

Most of it was a load of middle-aged whining, but there were a few sensible people that could see the good in the fact that a trans guy was becoming one of the most famous and well-loved musicians in the history of the world.

I was there through the GQ magazine cover and their first festival gig at Glastonbury. I was there when the Jowan shipping began – people wanting Jimmy and Rowan to be in a relationship – and I was there when the Lister is bisexual rumours began. I was there through the Jimmy-and-Rowan-friendship-origin discussions and the second-album-bonus-track theory and, of course, the ‘Joan of Arc’ video discourse.

Maybe not always physically. But spiritually, mentally and emotionally, I was there.

There’s a new picture of Jimmy on @ArkUpdates, posted on Twitter by one of The Ark’s stylists. Jimmy’s smiling, looking off to the side. He’s wearing all black, as we thought, but he’s in a denim jacket, which is new. It looks good against his skin. His hair, silky and brown, is buzzed at the sides now, making his face look even more elfin, but older, somehow. Hard to believe we’re almost the same age sometimes. Other times, I feel like we’ve grown up together.

He’s my favourite. Jimmy Kaga-Ricci.

I wouldn’t say I was attracted to him, to any of them, really. That’s not what this is about. But God, if anyone’s the angel around here, it’s him.

‘I am here tonight on the West Coast Music Awards red carpet with three of the UK’s greatest musicians – it’s The Ark’s very own Lister, Rowan and Jimmy!’

The suited, smiley presenter – I don’t know his name – turns to us, and so does the camera. This area of the red carpet is specifically for interviews, and everyone wants to talk to us. We always just walk through and stop when Cecily points at an interviewer.

I say, as upbeat as possible, ‘Hi, you all right?’, Lister says, ‘Hey,’ and Rowan just nods and smiles.

‘How are you boys doing tonight?’

I’m standing closest to the man, so he thrusts the microphone at me. I grin and glance at my fellow ‘boys’. ‘We’re doing good, I think! Yeah!’ Lister adds his agreement and Rowan nods again.

‘So The Ark’s been nominated for the ever-so-prestigious Best Newcomer award at the WCMA after your single “Joan of Arc” hit the top ten just three months ago. And tonight is only your second performance in the USA ever, is that right?’ The presenter doesn’t wait for us to confirm this before continuing. ‘How do you guys see your chances tonight?’

He asks this with a sort of sly, cheeky grin, as if this is a dangerous question to ask. It’s not. We won the BRIT Award for British Group two years ago and none of us really gives a shit whether we win any awards any more. Being here and spotting Beyoncé from afar is reward enough.

‘Well,’ I say, ‘I mean, I think it’s pretty funny, first of all, that the WCMA’s been calling us a “pop” band in all their tweets, when we’re not really a pop band.’ I say this all with a laugh but I do actually wish people thought we were a rock band. We’re a rock band. Electropop at a stretch. I’m not a music snob. Shut up.

The interviewer laughs too. ‘Oh really!? That’s so interesting.’ His eyes move away from me and he thrusts the microphone at Lister. ‘What about you, Lister? Any thoughts about how you’re going to do tonight? There are some big contenders!’

Lister nods thoughtfully and starts to speak in his chirpy interview voice. ‘Oh yeah, well, you know, whether we win or don’t, we put our hearts into our music and it’s something our listeners love, and that’s really what matters, isn’t it? We’re all just honoured to have been nominated by the WCMA and we’re really excited to be performing here.’

I resist the urge to laugh. Lister is so good at spouting this bullshit.

‘Now, about your recent single, “Joan of Arc”. Your fans adore it, don’t they?’ The interviewer turns to Rowan. ‘It’s sprouted some pretty crazy conspiracy theories, hasn’t it?’

Rowan shifts uncomfortably beside me.

Here we go.

‘What do you guys say about all these, I mean, frankly insane rumours about … what is it?’ The interviewer makes quotation marks with his fingers. ‘Jowan? I know a lot of these conspiracy theories have a lot to do with the “Joan of Arc” video.’

Lister audibly sighs. I freeze, mid-grin, trying to work out what the diplomatic thing to say is. What to say that’s not going to make the fans angry but not directly lying. What to say that isn’t going to land us on the front page of every single gossip magazine again.

The ‘Joan of Arc’ video. Somehow, the fans think the entire thing is a metaphor for my and Rowan’s supposed ‘romantic’ relationship. Which is a load of absolute bullshit of course, but the fans like to overthink everything we do.

It’s only a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things, but it’s particularly annoying right now, when we’re trying to be proud of one of our best songs and yet all anyone cares about is Jowan.

‘Our fans –’ says Rowan, getting in there before I can start – ‘our fans are super passionate.’ I can hear the strain in his voice. ‘And we love them for that. But like, all fans throughout time, from the Bible to the Beatles, they can take some things kind of overboard, you know?’ He’s reaching a dangerous line. ‘And it’s all from a place of love, yeah?’ Rowan pats his chest. ‘It’s all love. It’s just because they love us. And if they wanna … yeah … tell these stories? Then I’m not gonna stop them. Because we love them back, don’t we, lads?’

Lister chuckles and nods his agreement. I add a ‘Yeah, absolutely.’

When did we get so damn good at this?

‘And Jimmy here,’ Rowan continues, clapping me on the shoulder in a manly fashion, ‘Jimmy’s like my brother, you know? The fans know that. The world knows that. I think that’s what’s so special about being in The Ark. We might not be related but the three of us are brothers, yeah?’

Interviewer puts a hand on his heart and says, ‘That is so sweet to hear,’ but Cecily and security are already gesturing at us to leave this guy and he only has a few seconds to say ‘Thank you very much for joining us tonight, boys, and good luck!’ before we’re gone, onto the next one, time to do it all over again, and Lister is patting Rowan on the back as a silent ‘well done’ when we’re away from the cameras, and Rowan’s snorting and saying, ‘They’re gonna overthink that one as well.’

But it doesn’t matter, really. It’s all part of the job. And when the next interviewer asks me what musicians I’m enjoying at the moment and I get to ramble about how much I love Lorde I feel a bit better.

‘Not being funny,’ says Rowan to Cecily during the applause for one of the other artists performing tonight, ‘but are you going to raise your head away from your phone while we’re at one of the biggest and most important award shows in the world?’

The four of us have had the absolute misfortune to be seated in the front row. Cameras always on us. I’ve been trying not to move my lips too much while I’m talking.

‘I mean, I could,’ says Cecily, raising her eyebrows but not looking away from her phone, ‘if you didn’t mind several large blogs running the Bliss story tomorrow morning.’

Rowan groans. ‘They’re still threatening to do that?’

‘Yep. They want that Bliss story, babe. They’ve been pestering me with emails for days.’

‘Well, they’re not having it.’

‘I know.’

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.

‘How come?’

‘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?’

‘Definitely Jimmy.’

‘Why Jimmy?’

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.

‘Yeah, I think so,’ I say.

Someone’s given me the wrong guitar, but I can’t try to find the right one because one of our stage crew is fixing my angel wings onto the back of my jacket while we stand backstage during an ad break. Someone is combing Lister’s hair for him. Rowan’s changing into something black so we’re all matching.

The Ark likes theatricality.

‘Hey, where’s my guitar? This is Rowan’s spare,’ I ask the air around me. Someone swaps the one I’m holding for my actual guitar and I hang it round my neck. It’s not even really ‘my guitar’, anyway. My guitar, a lower-end Les Paul that my grandad snagged for £50 from a boot fair for my birthday when I was eleven, is safely locked away in my apartment. The guitar I’m holding right now is probably worth over five grand.

Rowan, changed now into a black bomber jacket with embroidered doves on the front, comes up to me, and grabs me by the arms.

‘How you doing, Jimjam?’

‘What?’ I ask, not understanding the question.

He squeezes my arms, then rubs them soothingly. ‘Are you calm?’

‘Am I calm?’

No. I am never calm.

‘I’m calm,’ I say.



Rowan pats me on the head, just to be sure. I brush my fingers over my cross necklace again.

Lister joins us. He’s swapped his burgundy jacket and white T-shirt for a black button-up. He looks the most excited out of the three of us, which is no surprise.

‘Remind me, what are we doing?’ he asks, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. ‘“Joan of Arc” or “Lie Day”?’

Rowan laughs and I groan.

‘Do you ever pay attention to anything?’ I say. ‘Were you high during sound check?’

Lister shoots me an offended look. ‘God, sorry, Dad!’ This kind of makes me chuckle, and then Lister smiles, a real old rare Lister smile, and continues, ‘Okay, for real … which is it?’

We are used to this now. Maybe a little too used to it. We won Best Newcomer earlier. Of course we did – everyone on the internet said we were going to. When we step up to perform, everyone cheers, even though we’re newcomers, even though we’re only just starting to get known in America. None of that phases me, though. Overexposure, I guess.

But when we step out onto the stage, shrouded in darkness, I get a rush of adrenalin and I can’t stop smiling because finally we get to play our music.

Like I said, The Ark likes theatricality. We don’t just stand there and play – which is fine, but it’s not us. Lister is centre on drums and Rowan and I stand behind him on a raised platform, playing various instruments depending on the song – keys, guitar, Launchpad (me), cello (Rowan). We always wear black.

I am always wearing angel wings. It’s a tradition.

When we started out, we’d play with shoddy instruments in the back of pubs and post videos of our garage recordings to YouTube. But tonight, we stand on a stage wider than three houses, and when Rowan gives us a nod and starts to strum the screechy opening bars of ‘Joan of Arc’, the LED screens behind us light up a bright, blinding orange, and we’re lost in the dry ice mist.

Then begins our intro – a low, distorted robot voice that we play at the beginning of every tour show. It was my idea at the start of our last tour.

I am not afraid, said Noah

I was born for this

I mouth along. It always makes me smile, reminding me of all the Bible stories Grandad used to read to me when I was little. It’s a slight variation of a Joan of Arc quote too. I love tying all the parts of ourselves together.

I find myself shouting ‘West Coast!’ just because I’m so excited, and the audience cheer right back at me. Weird how it never seems to hit me until the music starts. Until the music starts, I’m just floating through it all. Waiting to get to the next song so I can breathe again.

Born to survive the storm

Born to survive the flood

Our platform starts to rise into the air. The light changes and I glance around to look at the LED screen. It’s a giant Renaissance painting of an armoured woman wielding a sword. Joan.

Then lights are on me, just as the voice speaks its final words.

Believe in me

Said Noah to the animals

And two-by-two, they ascended

Onto the ark

‘the voice had promised me that, as soon as i came to the king, he would receive me.’

– Joan of Arc

I am jump-scared awake at 11.14 a.m. by Juliet making a sound resembling that of a goose passing into the afterlife.

I sit up. Juliet and I slept in one of her nan’s spare rooms. Mac slept in another. Weirdly, Juliet seems to have brought most of her possessions with her – the wardrobe is overflowing with potential outfits for Thursday and the floor is littered with assorted Ark merchandise.

‘Did I just dream that,’ I say, ‘or did you just shriek very loudly?’

‘I think I am dreaming,’ says Juliet.

Juliet is staring at her phone like it’s a solid bar of gold.

‘What’s happened?’ I ask.

‘Jowan,’ she says, and then turns her head and stares at me. ‘Jowan.’

I take a moment to process.

Because saying Jowan like that, like it’s a magic spell, like it’s the name of an entire country – there is only one thing that she could mean.

‘You’re joking,’ I say.

She simply thrusts the phone at me.

On screen is a news article.


My heart starts to hammer. My palms start sweating.

I scroll down.

While their fandom’s theories concerning a relationship between The Ark’s Jimmy Kaga-Ricci and Rowan Omondi have previously been considered nought but the sexual fantasies of fourteen-year-old girls, a new piece of interesting evidence has emerged from the depths of the internet.

We’ve acquired a photograph appearing to show Jimmy and Rowan sleeping next to each other in a bed. They appear to be inside their SW3 apartment (in which Jimmy, Rowan and Lister live), as a London skyline can be clearly seen through the large window next to them.

Is this fandom conspiracy real? You decide! Jimmy and Rowan look pretty cosy to us!

The photo does indeed show Jimmy and Rowan sleeping next to each other on a bed. Rowan is on his front, one arm slung over Jimmy’s chest. Jimmy’s head is tilted ever so slightly towards Rowan.

It’s adorable.

It’s like it’s been Photoshopped.

It’s better than any piece of fan art I have ever seen.

‘I have died and gone to heaven,’ I say. I put the phone down on the bed and turn to Juliet. ‘What is happening right now?’

Juliet has both of her hands on her face. ‘I’m dying,’ she says.

‘You don’t think – I mean – the title of the article was kind of misleading, but—’

‘Look at them. Look at them. They’re cuddling.’

I look at the photo again. They are sort of almost nearly cuddling.

‘They’re cuddling,’ I say.

Juliet flops down onto the bed.

‘This is the beginning,’ she says, ‘isn’t it?’

Of course it’s the beginning. It’s the beginning of everything we ever dreamed of. Jimmy and Rowan standing up and showing everyone that love is real. That even amidst all the shit, there is some pure goodness in the world.

Juliet suddenly flings herself out of bed. ‘I need to tell Mac.’

Having forgotten that Mac exists for the past few minutes, I am suddenly sprung back to reality.

‘Oh yeah. Don’t bring him in here, though.’

Juliet gives me a confused look until I point at my scarf-less head, and then she gives me a thumbs-up and leaves the room.

Once she’s gone, I load up the image on my own phone. When did this happen? There was nothing about this when I checked Twitter after I got up to pray earlier this morning. Amazing how everything can change within the space of a few hours.

I stare at it. It’s beautiful. God. It’s so beautiful. Jimmy is so beautiful. Rowan is so beautiful. They love each other so much. I want to cry. Nobody will ever love me like that. Doesn’t matter. Jowan exists. There’s something good in the world. There’s a point to being alive.

Every single day I wish I knew the full story. I wish I knew how they met. I wish I knew the things they say to each other. Who’s louder. Who’s the joker. I wish someone had recorded their every interaction and I could sit down and watch them all from start to finish.

I’ll never know, though. But at least we have this.

Enough to make me believe.

When Juliet calls ‘Angel, do you want breakfast?’ through the door, I realise I have been sitting in bed looking at the photo for over ten minutes.

Please don’t let me die in a plane crash. Please. I mean, I’m on a plane every other day so if it’s going to be anyone, it’s going to be me. Can you imagine dying in a plane crash? All those people screaming in an oversized tin can. Knowing they’re gonna die. Can’t even call your grandad on the phone. Sounds like something that would happen to me.

I’m curled up in my first-class seat, clutching my cross necklace, counting down the minutes until we land safely back in London and the chance of me dying a fiery metallic death is back to ‘relatively low’. I know the chance is low anyway. I know that. But I can’t stop thinking about it, and the more I do, the faster my heart beats and the harder I find it to take a full breath. At this rate, I’ll flood the plane with my own sweat. Create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Suddenly, Rowan yanks up the blind that shields my seat from the rest of the cabin. He looks furious, but then his expression drops into something softer, and he says, ‘Jesus. You all right?’

I release my necklace and wipe my hand on my joggers.

‘Planes,’ I say.

‘Oh, yeah.’ Rowan opens the compartment door and sits down on the table next to my seat. ‘You know you’re more likely to—’

‘To die in a car crash, to get struck by lightning or to get eaten by a shark than to die in a plane crash. I know.’


There’s a pause. My breathing has calmed down.

‘Anyway,’ I say. ‘What’s up?’

He sighs, then glances around the cabin. There are a few people staring at us, which isn’t unusual. I’ve already caught two people taking photos of us when they thought we weren’t looking. Not that I confronted them about it.

Rowan shuffles further inside my compartment, shuts the door, then pulls up the blind so no one can see or hear us. He drops his iPad into my lap and touches his fingertips to his lips.

I look at it, confused. ‘Did you get stuck on Candy Crush again?’

He gestures at the iPad and doesn’t say anything. The expression on his face suggests that this is not a Candy Crush-related issue.

I pick up the iPad and look at it.

On screen is a picture of me and Rowan sleeping in my bed in our London apartment.

I laugh. It’s kind of funny. We look like we’re a couple, or something. Lister must have taken it as a joke.

I look up at Rowan, expecting him to be laughing too. But he isn’t. His eyes are wide. His hand is gripping the back of my seat.

‘I don’t understand,’ I say.

‘Haven’t you checked Twitter today?’ he says, shaking his head almost manically.


Rowan snatches the iPad back and swipes the screen. The image minimises and the screen returns to Rowan’s Twitter notifications, which seem to be full of people tweeting him the photo. He starts to scroll through them, holding the iPad in front of my face. Everyone is tweeting him about the photo, and the link to where it came from.

I sit upright in my chair, take the iPad from Rowan and click on the nearest link.

It takes me to a big but gossipy news site, the usual sort of place that jumps on any Ark news for easy clicks. And there, in the centre of the page, is the photo of me and Rowan, accompanied by the title,


‘Well, that’s misleading,’ I say.

‘Quality click bait,’ says Rowan, nodding solemnly.

It’s almost chilling, actually. Where did they get this photo from? How did Lister slip up this time?

‘I can’t believe he did something like this again,’ groans Rowan.

He’s referring, of course, to the fact that Lister is the sole reason I came out publicly as trans when I was sixteen. He tweeted a photo of our open suitcases while we were packing for a tour with a cheerful ‘PACKING FOR TOUR WITH THE BOYS #TheArkEuropeTour’. This included my suitcase, which had my hormone-blocker medication in it, very clearly visible in one of the suitcase compartments. And so the speculation and coming-out pressure began.

I got over it pretty quickly but Rowan barely spoke to Lister for two entire months.

Coming out at sixteen was probably a bit too soon for me – I wasn’t completely sure whether I was ready for everyone in the world to know – but it wasn’t a total disaster. There was hate, obviously, but most of our fans were amazingly supportive and it actually brought in a whole new load of listeners, ones that looked up to me specifically. Which was kind of cool.

Suddenly we weren’t just a teenage boy band playing fun, upbeat tunes. Suddenly we were something a little bit more important than that.

‘Didn’t think he was quite that dumb,’ Rowan continues.

‘Are you talking about me?’

Rowan and I turn to look at Lister, who is leaning over the compartment wall and peering down at us. He has sunglasses on and has his hood up, concealing around eighty per cent of his head.

The smell of alcohol immediately fills the air.

Rowan gives him a look of disdain, and then holds his iPad up in front of Lister’s face. ‘Explain.’

Lister squints at the screen. There’s a pause.

‘Mate, that’s touching,’ he says. ‘Very sweet. Romantic.’ He looks up at the two of us and puts his hand on his heart. ‘I wish you both every happiness.’

Rowan sighs. ‘Come on, man. Why’d you do it?’

‘Do what?’

‘Send them the picture.’

Lister’s smile drops. ‘I didn’t.’

Rowan groans, throws his hands in the air and turns round. ‘Oh my God, now you’re gonna stand here and deny it for half an hour.’

‘What?’ Lister chuckles nervously, but Rowan just shakes his head and ambles back to his own compartment, which is opposite mine.

Lister takes Rowan’s place and sits down, looking at me. He takes his sunglasses off, revealing eyes with dark circles underneath them. I knew he was drinking too much at the after-party last night and the cocktails he’s had on the plane today probably haven’t been helping.

‘You guys think I took a picture of you two in bed together and then sent it to some gossip blog?’ says Lister. His smile is wobbly.

I stare at him.

‘Jimmy,’ he says. ‘Come on.’

‘Did you, though?’ I ask.

‘No. I swear. I would take a blood oath with one hand on your Bible if you had it with you.’

‘You’re literally the only one who could have taken it.’ I load up the photo on my laptop. ‘Look, we’re in my bedroom. It’s night-time.’

‘It could have been someone at a party—’

‘I wouldn’t be asleep if we had anyone else in our house. Obviously.’

Lister slumps back against the compartment wall. He actually looks a bit annoyed. ‘I can’t believe you think it’s me. I know I’m stupid but I’m not that stupid.’

‘You’ve done stuff like this before. The Twitter suitcases thing.’

I instantly regret mentioning it when Lister looks up at me, hurt.

‘I – that was an accident –’ he stammers. ‘And I’m still really, really, really sorry about that. I swear I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself—’

‘You seriously swear it wasn’t you?’

‘Jimmy, I swear. I think I’d remember sending a photo to a gossip website.’ He shakes his head. ‘That’s such a weird thing to do, why would I do that?’


I think I do believe him.

‘Who else could’ve taken it, then?’ I look down at the photo. Whoever took it was literally standing right next to my bed, staring down at us. Lister leans forward and looks at it with me.

‘What if,’ he says, sitting back up and staring at me with wild eyes, ‘someone broke in?’


‘Yeah. It happens all the time to celebrities. Fans break in and just … spy on them. Take photos. Steal a couple of things, maybe. I’ve heard so many horror stories about K-pop band members where they got home and there’d be a fangirl hiding in their wardrobe or they’d wake up in the middle of the night and there’d just be a girl watching them from the other side of the room—’

‘Lister,’ says Rowan sharply without looking towards us, but it’s too late. My palms have started to sweat again. A fangirl, dying to know whether Jowan is real, sneaks into our apartment and hides, waiting for the proof that she desperately wants. And we hand it right to her after falling asleep midway through a Brooklyn Nine-Nine marathon. Next, she installs a camera in our bathroom, films us naked, posts it online. Then there’s a camera in our bedroom, which films us doing other stuff, personal stuff. Then she hides in my wardrobe, ready to step out and stab me in the neck –

‘Jimmy,’ says Lister, snapping his fingers in front of my face. ‘You’re spacing out.’


‘It’s not a big deal. You know what? I bet you just fell asleep when we were having a party and forgot about it and someone walked in and thought you looked cute.’

I don’t believe him.

All I can see is some girl waiting to kill me in a wardrobe.

Rowan continues to give Lister the silent treatment for the rest of the flight. He still thinks Lister took the photo.

The shipping itself isn’t a major inconvenience to any of us. If anything, it keeps the fans interested. They think Judgement Day will eventually come and there’ll be a big reveal that Rowan and I are secretly in love.

There won’t. We’re not.

I suppose sometimes it makes me feel a bit awkward. Knowing that a fair percentage of the people who come to meet us or see our concerts have probably read extremely explicit fanfiction about me and my best friend having sex. I got curious once and had a look at some of it, which was a mistake, because it just made me feel really uncomfortable.

But it doesn’t matter. They keep believing and we know the truth and keep on going. Nothing really changes and everyone is happy. So that’s fine.

Lister escaped most of the fanfiction stuff, somehow. He’s always been a bit separate from Rowan and me. Rowan and I are generally considered attractive, by magazines and blogs and stuff, but Lister is so lusted over that he’s been asked to model for Gucci four times. Rowan and I have been friends since we were seven, but we only met Lister when we were thirteen. Rowan and I wanted to start a band, and we forced Lister to be part of it at the last minute because he was the only kid we knew who could play the drums.

It’s always sort of been Rowan and Jimmy, plus Lister.

We still love him of course.

But that’s just the way it is.

When we land at Gatwick and start collecting our stuff together, Lister walks over to Rowan, perching on his table, and says, ‘Come on, Ro, you know I wouldn’t do something like that.’

Rowan shrugs and doesn’t meet Lister’s eyes. ‘It doesn’t matter.’

Lister stands up and wraps his arms round Rowan’s chest. ‘Ro Ro. Don’t be angry at me. I’ll do the washing-up for a week.’

Rowan can’t stop himself smiling. ‘There’s a higher chance of The Ark winning Best Country Artist than you doing the washing-up for a single day.’

Lister lets him go and smiles and, for the moment, all seems to be forgiven, but when Lister skips away to his own chair, I watch Rowan’s smile fade away into nothing.

‘And they’re giving you enough to eat?’ asks Dad.

‘No, Dad, they’re refusing to give me any food and I’m having to survive on the packet of crisps you gave me yesterday.’

‘Well, that would make quite an adventure, at least.’

I sigh heavily and lean against the hallway wall, switching my phone to my other hand.

‘You don’t need to worry. I’m having a good time.’

‘I know,’ says Dad. ‘But after that big argument with your mother yesterday … I just wanted to check up on you. And she’s been telling me all about this TV show Clownfish—’

‘I think it’s called Catfish, Dad.’

‘Well, according to your mother, whatever kind of fish it is, it’s one that could kidnap you and sell you into sexual slavery.’

‘Juliet and I have talked to each other on Skype loads before now. She’s very nice and is looking after me perfectly fine and she isn’t a middle-aged man looking to drug and kill me.’

Dad laughs. ‘I’m very glad to hear that.’

‘Is Mum still angry at me?’

‘I think so, yes. She was typing very loudly at her computer this morning.’

We both laugh.

‘I think,’ says Dad, ‘she’s just frustrated because she feels like you’ve been keeping this from her.’

‘I talk about The Ark all the time. I don’t know why this was a surprise.’

‘Fereshteh, it was a little bit of a surprise to me too.’


‘I suppose … I suppose I never thought you actually cared about this band that much. And to see you just … just start shouting at your mother like that—’

‘She shouted at me too!’

‘I know, I know. But I’ve never seen you so angry, my girl. You’re not a naturally angry person. It was a bit of a shock for everyone.’

There’s a pause. I guess it had been a major argument. One of the worst I’ve had with my parents. I usually get along with my parents really well. I don’t tell them everything about my life, obviously, but I share stuff with them and we have a laugh sometimes.

But the argument yesterday. I can sort of see why Mum and Dad were a bit taken aback.

‘Well, sorry, I guess,’ I say. ‘This is just really important to me.’

‘I know,’ he says. ‘I know. But we’re worried it might be too important.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Well … more important than your education.’

‘I told you, that school leavers’ ceremony thing isn’t important—’

‘Not just that. You are growing up now, my girl. You’ll be studying at university, then finding yourself a job, starting a new life. And we just want to make sure … you have that in mind too. Because all you seem to talk about or care about is this boy band.’

‘That’s not all I talk about!’ I say, but now that I think about it, it does seem to come up in conversation quite a lot with my parents. And they listen politely, but they don’t care about The Ark.

‘We’re just concerned, Fereshteh.’

I laugh, not knowing what to say. ‘I’m … I’m just going to a concert.’

Juliet wanders into the hallway, a cup of tea in her hand and her hair pulled back into a loose French plait. She notices the serious expression on my face and mouths, ‘Everything okay?’

I give her a reassuring nod.

‘Fereshteh? Have you gone?’

‘No, I’m here, baba.’

‘Just stay safe. We worry.’

‘I know you do. But I’m not stupid. I won’t do anything stupid, I promise.’

‘You are a smart girl. Smarter than us, probably.’

I smile a little. ‘Nah, you two are the smartest of them all.’

I reassure him again that I’ll be fine and hang up.

‘What was all that about?’ asks Juliet, perching on a radiator and looking up at me.

‘That was my dad. My mum’s still angry.’

Juliet grimaces. ‘Oh.’

I laugh. ‘Don’t worry. Parents, am I right? She’ll chill out when she realises she’s in the wrong.’

Juliet chuckles weakly and looks away. I know she’s had some bust-ups with her parents in the past – they’re both very important lawyers, as are Juliet’s older siblings, but Juliet wants to go to uni to do theatre set design.

‘Oh,’ she says. ‘Yeah.’ There’s an odd expression on her face, as if this is an awkward thing for us to talk about. Maybe it is. I guess we don’t talk about our families that often.

Mac chooses this moment to thunder downstairs, adjusting his belt. At the sight of Juliet, he immediately starts running his hands through his hair.

‘What are you two talking about?’ he asks. Nosy.

‘You, behind your back,’ says Juliet with a sly smile that is most definitely the Juliet I know.

They start talking and wander off towards the living room. I stay and stare down at my phone, thinking about what Dad was trying to explain about Mum.

Mum doesn’t understand me. She doesn’t understand why I reacted so strongly about a boy band.

And I know they’re both worried about my future. They don’t ever say it, but I know they know I’m average and average is disappointing for them. Especially compared to my brother. The pinnacle of ambition and success.

Don’t worry. I know that. I’m fully aware I’m average. God, I’m so, so aware I’m average.

But I’m not going to think about any of that right now.

I don’t need to.

This week isn’t about my life.

I don’t have to think about it at all.

This week is about The Ark.

I spend a greater part of the day talking about Jowan. With Juliet, and on the internet.

Tumblr is awash with theories and opinions and discourse. Whether Jowan is real is split approximately fifty-fifty. I suppose Jimmy and Rowan being asleep in the same bed, cuddling, isn’t exactly official proof, but in my eyes it’s close enough. It looks pretty damn romantic to me. I’m an optimist. I like to believe that love exists.

Twitter won’t shut up either. #Jowan has been trending for hours. My whole timeline is flooded with people screaming and crying in caps lock. Neither Jimmy nor Rowan have tweeted about it, but they’ll have to say something soon, won’t they?

I wish I could ask them in real life.

I wish I could see them and tell them everything will be okay and everyone is happy for them.

‘Do you think they’re upset?’ asks Juliet, while we’re both sitting on the same living-room sofa, our laptops open in front of us, Brooklyn Nine-Nine playing on the TV across the room. Mac sits alone on the other sofa, scrolling through his phone.

‘Maybe,’ I say.

‘I feel bad … feeling so happy when they’re probably upset,’ says Juliet.

‘We don’t really know what they think about it yet, though,’ I say, forcing a chuckle, but it’s obvious to both of us I’m just trying to justify our joy at the situation.

Once I’ve read every opinion one could possibly have on the subject, I wrap myself in one of the blankets from last night and reread one of my favourite Jowan fanfics. It starts when Jimmy and Rowan met in primary school, and ends when they’re both twenty-seven, having left The Ark and gone onto solo careers. They fall in and out of love multiple times, always finding their way back to each other.

I know it’s not real. The details, anyway. But I like to imagine.

I like to hope.

I like to feel happy.

I have had a lot of bad days (I know, shocking, right?), but today really is making a strong case to join The Day I Had a Panic Attack at Children in Need, The Day I Passed Out at a Meet-and-Greet, and The Day I Fell Off the Stage at the London Palladium, as all-time worst days of my life.

These probably don’t sound very bad but they were bad. Please take my word for it.

During the drive into London, I contemplate the strong possibility that someone was able to break into our apartment and take a photo of me while I was asleep, meaning that literally anyone could break in at any time and do … anything. It could be anyone. A deluded fan who’d do anything to see us. A journalist wanting to uncover our deepest secrets. A transphobe who just wants me to die. God knows there are people like that out there.

Cecily makes five different phone calls throughout the journey, each one pestering a different person about how this photo made international news, but she just seems to get angrier each time. She ends the final phone call with a heavy groan and a shake of the head at Rowan and me.

Looks like not even Cecily has the answers this time.

The fans don’t seem to think anything’s wrong. The only thing they’re talking about in my Twitter notifications is that they all think ‘Jowan is real’. It makes me feel sort of sad for them. They’re only going to be disappointed, one way or another.

When Rowan reveals he has a girlfriend, maybe.

Bliss Lai.

The girlfriend who’s stayed a secret for the past two years.

‘You’ve got that look on your face,’ says Rowan, midway through the journey. He’s sitting opposite me in the car, like he had been on the way to the WCMAs, and for a moment I feel like we’re back there, before I remember we’re already five thousand miles away.

‘What look?’ I say.

‘The constipated look. The sweaty palms look.’

I rub my forehead. ‘Someone’s going to break into our apartment and kill me.’

Rowan sighs and pats me on the knee. ‘Come on, Jimjam, don’t think stuff like that.’

‘We could hire a full-time bodyguard?’ says Lister, who is sitting next to me sipping from a Starbucks cup.

Somehow the idea of having a huge suited person loitering in our apartment 24/7 makes me feel even worse.

Cecily glances up at me from her phone. ‘Why don’t you just focus on the important stuff this week, huh, babe? We’ve got the final show on Thursday and then the contract signing on Friday.’

‘Do you think if we hired a full-time bodyguard they’d do the hoovering for us?’ asks Lister.

Rowan turns his head slowly towards Lister. ‘If you can name me one occasion that you have ever hoovered our apartment, I will give you five hundred quid right now.’

Lister opens his mouth, then freezes, then closes it again, and we all laugh at him, and for a few moments I stop thinking about being murdered.

Cecily only tells us that we have an interview with Rolling Stone today when the car pulls up at a fancy hotel and Lister asks, ‘Why the fuck are we here?’

None of us are particularly surprised. We’re used to just being told where to go and what to do.

‘It’s the Bliss thing,’ she says with a sigh. ‘I’ve promised Rolling Stone an interview with you so they don’t run the Bliss story.’

I shoot a glance at Rowan. He looks a little sick.

We sprawl ourselves around one of the hotel’s conference rooms and a few hair and make-up people arrive to make us look less dead. This thankfully includes Alex, who is one of my favourite hair and make-up people because he treats me like I’m a real human being and not one of those posters you pull out of a magazine.

He gives me a pat on the shoulder after he finishes doing my hair.

‘You looked tired today, Jimmy.’

I chuckle. ‘Sorry.’

‘You getting enough sleep?’

‘What counts as enough sleep?’

‘I dunno … six-to-eight hours a night?’

I just laugh at him.

Across the room, Rowan is reading the copy of our new record contract that Cecily’s just given him. He’s frowning deeply, which is not a good sign.

‘It’s different,’ says Cecily, while standing at the sink, handing Lister another cup of water. I think the water is just making Lister, who has passed drunkenness and has entered a full-on middle-of-the-day hangover, feel worse.

‘Different,’ says Rowan, raising his eyebrows. ‘It’s, like, ten times more work than we normally do. They want us to do a two-year-long world tour? Two full years? Why didn’t you mention that earlier?’

‘We don’t have to talk about this now,’ says Cecily, holding up her phone and tapping on it.

‘We’ve only got three days left before we sign, though,’ says Rowan. He points at a page. ‘I just … this is a lot more than we normally do, publicity-wise. More interviews, more appearances, more collabs. I don’t know whether we’re even gonna be able to deal with all this.’

‘Babe, don’t worry about it. We’ll talk about it after today.’

Lister leans over the sink and dry-heaves, then drools a bit.

‘If you throw up,’ says Cecily, ‘I will actually smack you.’

‘Can’t we just go home?’ Lister mumbles.

‘No,’ she says.

‘Jimmy, turn your head to the left a bit? That’s it.’

The camera flashes. Pretty sure I blinked.

Our stylists are magic. They transformed the three of us from greasy and sleep-deprived lads into pop icons in under an hour. The bags under Rowan’s eyes have disappeared entirely. Lister looks positively healthy. I barely recognise myself in the mirror.

And we’re wearing outrageously beautiful designer clothes. That always makes me feel like magic.

The camera flashes again. I wonder what the time is. Not even sure whether it’s the morning or afternoon.

‘Jimmy, just look at the camera, now. That’s it.’

It’s a good thing everyone likes the ‘dead behind the eyes’ look.

‘Rowan, can we get you in the middle now?’

Rowan stands next to me. He’s been scarily quiet since he started flicking through the contract. Normally he’d be the one trying to cheer us up when we’re all tired, making sarcastic comments or messing around, distracting us when we were trying to pull serious expressions.

But he’s too lost in thought today. We all are, a bit.

‘Rowan, can you just put your arms round Jimmy and Lister, for me?’

He does, and the camera flashes.

‘Hold on, just pause for a sec, please.’ The woman directing the shoot calls at the photographer to pause. ‘Lister, you all right? You need to break for a minute?’

Rowan and I turn to Lister.

Lister’s eyes are watering and his skin is pale white.

‘Er, yeah, just need to go to the loo,’ he mumbles, and then walks swiftly out of the room. Rowan and I follow him immediately, like there’s a string attaching us, just in time to hear him run into the nearest bathroom and throw up in a toilet.

We enter the bathroom. Lister tells us to go away, but Rowan just walks up to him and starts rubbing his back as he throws up again. I don’t really know what to do, there’s not much I can do, so I just sit down on a radiator and wait.

There’s a big window on one side of the bathroom. Big enough to climb out, probably. We’re on the ground floor. We could just climb out and run. Get up and go.

‘So, lads.’

We’re with the interviewer, now, back in the hotel conference room. He’s white, middle-aged, balding, and his name is Dave. Dave looks evil.

He has put a Dictaphone on the table between us, and it is recording everything we say.

He nods at us slowly.

‘The Ark has always had something special,’ he begins, as if he’s already writing the article in his head. ‘YouTube success. Then chart success. And you’re a strong example for the diversity everyone craves in today’s media –’ he gestures at Rowan – ‘a young man, born to two Nigerian immigrants, in the height of success and fame –’ he gestures at Lister – ‘a young man who grew up in a single-parent, working-class family on benefits, only to make himself a millionaire before he turned eighteen –’ he gestures at me – ‘and a transgender guy of both Indian and Italian heritage, proving to the world that being transgender is just one tiny part of you.’

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. Being trans has been a pretty big part of my life so far, thanks, but that shouldn’t be particularly relevant here, in an interview about our music. Younger interviewers usually like to chat about music and fans, but older interviewers, like Dave, are always obsessed with how many adjectives they can put before our names.

‘And now a European tour, huh? Started from the bottom, now we’re here? How does it feel to be at the absolute top of your game?’

Lister, having thrown up several times, looks once again like a god, and begins his We Are So Lucky to Be Here and We Love Our Fans spiel.

The interviewer nods along, like they usually do.

Then he says, ‘Now, guys. I know you know you’re very fortunate people. You’ve won several prestigious British and European music awards. Gone gold on two albums. A sell-out European tour.’ He leans forward onto his elbows, like he’s the CEO and we’re three underperforming interns. ‘But I want to know the real Ark. I want to know your highs –’ he gestures vaguely towards the ceiling – ‘and your lows.’ He points at the ground and narrows his eyes. ‘I want to dig into your hearts and your minds. I want you to tell me what it’s really like being a famous boy band.’

None of us say anything.

‘Why don’t we start at the start, huh?’ Dave continues. ‘I’ve heard it from Wikipedia but I want to hear it from you. How did you meet?’

I wait for either of the others to speak, but Rowan still seems distracted after reading the new contract, and Lister looks a little like he didn’t understand the question.

I smile widely at Dave and begin the story of how Rowan and I met at primary school, and when we were thirteen we wanted to start a band. We needed a drummer, so we got Lister to join, after some persuading. He didn’t want to hang around with two music nerds, but he was the only person we knew who could play drums.

‘Must seem like a world away now, huh?’ Dave chips in. ‘Three schoolboys starting a band.’ I don’t really know whether to continue the story, but then Dave holds up his palms and says, ‘Sorry! I interrupted. Carry on.’

‘When we were thirteen, we starting uploading our songs to YouTube. A year and two hundred thousand views later, Cecily Wills from Thunder Management found us and took us straight to Fort Records, and that was that.’

‘Ah, the power of the internet,’ says Dave after I’ve finished. There might be something sinister about the way he says it, or I might be imagining it.

We talk for a while more about the formation of The Ark. I do most of the talking, which is a little unusual, but Lister keeps fidgeting – he probably still feels a bit ill – and Rowan is still acting weird and silent.

‘Now, I want to delve a little bit into your relationship with your fans,’ says Dave. ‘Particularly your online fans.’

Here we go.

‘The Ark has a well-established online fan base. Perhaps one of the biggest in the world. You’ve got people watching and analysing your every move, perhaps even invading your privacy, in certain areas.’

He pauses, so I nod at him.

‘In particular, The Ark’s online fan base is famous for its conspiracies and overanalyses.’ He leans back in his chair. ‘How does stuff like that make you feel?’

None of us say anything.

Cecily watches on from the corner of the room.

‘A difficult question, I suppose,’ continues Dave, unfazed by our silence. ‘Let’s look at it a different way. I’m a journalist. I write serious articles, and, yes, I hope that they affect people, in a similar way your music does. I hope that they change people’s way of thinking. Teach them something. Make them feel something.’ He crosses his legs. ‘But at the same time, I am, for the lack of a better phrase, a “normal person”. I send off my article to my editor, go home from the office, and nobody cares.’ He holds up his hands and laughs. ‘Nobody cares! And there’s freedom in that. But you three – you don’t have that freedom any more. You don’t have the freedom that normal people have. You barely even had the chance to experience it at all.’

There’s another pause.

‘And I want to know how that makes you feel,’ says Dave.

Rowan sits up in his chair.

‘We love our fans,’ he says, but it sounds wrong. It sounds like he’s lying. ‘Everything they do, they do out of love, and we love them back for that.’

Dave nods, smiling. He knows.

‘Love is a strong word for people you’ve never met,’ he says. ‘For people that watch your every move, that talk about you behind your backs, that formulate their own opinions of your personalities and relationships and behaviour, all without having spoken to you, or often even seen you, in real life.’

Rowan doesn’t drop eye contact. ‘Appreciate, then. We appreciate our fans. We wouldn’t be here without our fans.’ It sounds like he’s reading from a script.

Dave waits.

Rowan says nothing.

‘And that’s all you have to say about your fans?’ says Dave.

Lister leans forward and laughs, though it’s obviously fake, trying to diffuse the tension. ‘Look, mate, what are you trying to get us to say?’

Dave laughs back at him. ‘I just want to hear some honesty. That’s sort of what I do.’

‘Well, if you’re looking for some easy drama, you picked the wrong band, mate.’ Lister laughs some more. ‘We’ve nearly finished our second European tour. Let us fucking rest. I just want to fucking rest.’

‘Now that’s honesty.’ Dave points at Lister, and then looks back at me and Rowan. ‘I like him.’

Rowan scoffs and looks away.

‘Jimmy,’ says Dave. ‘How do you feel about your fans?’

The photograph flashes in my mind before I can stop it. A fangirl standing over Rowan and me asleep in my bedroom, eyes empty black pits, a grin with spiky shark-teeth.

‘I love the fans,’ I say in a robot voice.

‘You don’t feel irritated that they keep on insisting on knowing everything about your personal lives?’ Dave leans back. ‘I mean, take the photo that emerged on the internet today. You guys must have heard about that, right? How did that make you feel?’

I force the words out. ‘I … felt … anxious, because … people now think that … my and Rowan’s rela– friendship is something more than … friendship. It looks like we’re lying to our fans.’ My palms are actually sweating. ‘We’d never lie to our fans.’

‘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 in