The minute H and I stepped out of the boys’ hotel two days after their Staples concert, it was chaos. He held my hand tightly, his fingers gripping mine because I knew he could feel that I wanted to go back inside the hotel. I exhaled loudly, the crowd closing in, the cameras flashing and clicking with every step that we take.
It was two days after his ‘announcement,’ two days after people had started researching me. Two days of wanting to put my world on a constant mute because of all the noise that came with that announcement.
“We can’t hide forever. Besides, they already know who you are,” I remember H telling me when he asked me if I wanted to go out. It was his day off, after all. The other boys are planning to head to the beach, while H has other plans.
He wanted to go shopping.
“We have stores back home, H!” I remembered arguing, but he said something about the stuff being far cheaper here than back home.
“You are killing me. Virtually and literally,” I whined when he was pulling me out of the hotel room. The number of death threats that I have received since two days ago were countless. I think someone wishes me dead every three seconds. That’s roughly 57,600 death threats in two days.
H cupped my face in his hands, pressing his lips on my forehead. “I am with you. You’re my girlfriend. And we should have done this a long time ago already. So no, you are not getting out of this. We are going to have this first ever public appearance ever as a couple.”
I shook my head, bumping my nose against his. “Honestly, I don’t think we could have survived this long if we went public earlier,” I said softly.
“I think you’re right, but I’m getting tired of hiding. I’m tired of lying to people and saying I’m single when I’m not. When I am proud of you. When I just want to tell the world that you’re my girlfriend and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
That was what made me do it, you know? That despite my flaws and shortcomings, he loved me—wholly and fully—and he’s proud of me.
That’s H for you. That’s Hayden Edward Smith: seeing the best in people every single time. Silver linings through the dark clouds kind of guy. Half-full, not half-empty.
“Okay,” I finally agreed. “Okay. Let’s go.”
And we’re here, out in the open, where the phones were whipped out and cameras were clicking. The paparazzi stationed outside the hotel ever since the boys came here bit the bait and are following us, along with a bevy of fangirls. They formed a circle around us, and as we moved, the circle traveled with us, and I struggled to breathe.
I gripped H’s hand tightly, and we finally turned at the corner where the rows and rows of shops were. It took a couple of minutes before R and a couple of H’s security team managed to clear the people around us, and I finally breathed.
H placed his arm over my shoulder, and he dipped his head low, his face mere centimeters away from mine. “You okay?”
I nodded, and I saw the first of the three shops that H wanted to go to. It felt like a light at the end of the tunnel, a welcome sight. But he pulled me into another store, and I was going to protest when I realized where we were.
“Of course. A bookstore,” I said, looking up at him in amusement.
“You looked terrified for a moment, and I wasn’t sure if you’re going to survive this. So… bookstore first.”
He pulled me behind one of the bookshelves, his hands wrapped around my waist. I looked up at him and smiled, and I thought he was going to lean down for a kiss but instead he reached out behind me, showing me a copy of Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up. “I don’t want you writing a version of this for us, alright?” he said, and I grinned, nodding. He kissed me on the forehead, and then twirled me around, and then playfully pushed me towards the aisle of young adult fiction—or new adult fiction, call it whatever you want.
I started scanning the shelves, with H just behind me, our hands locked together. He waited patiently as I grabbed one book after the other, reading the back covers and the endings (yeah, I like getting spoiled like that). I didn’t know how long we were there in the bookstore, but as soon as I looked up, swarms of fans are looking through the window, watching us, like we were dogs through petshop window or specimens under a microscope.
And then that’s when I realized how much H knows me.
And that I didn’t care anymore about those people out there—at least not as much as I did when we left the hotel a few minutes earlier.
“I love you,” I said as I twirled around and pulled him towards the end of the bookstore, behind one of the shelves. I pinned him against one of the bookshelves, and he chuckled. I planted a big one on him, and his grin was as wide as ever.
“Now, let’s go. You have some shopping to do.”
I pushed back the left sleeve of my blouse, exposing my tattoo, and then took his right arm, our tattoos linking together. He nodded, as if in approval of this, and we headed out of the bookstore and straight into the pit of fangirls and paparazzi.
But I didn’t care.
Because I proud of the man I am holding hands with right now, and I am proud to be called his woman.