The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” had never been more appropriate for her than in this moment, the music continuing to play while the group on stage waved and said their goodbyes. Their smiling faces were just as bright as the stage lights. Bits of confetti still fluttered in the air like snow as the group made their way back to the center of the stage, where a screen slowly lowered. But they kept waving, even when only their feet were visible, crouching behind the screen to keep waving at their fans.
Sure, it had been nearly three hours, but it felt like it had passed in the blink of an eye. Her pulse was still thrumming in her ears, the bass reverberating in her chest. She wasn’t ready for it to be over. Her lightstick was still clutched tightly in her hand, the slow blinking finally coming to an end. She wished there would be another encore, that the magic spell wouldn’t end just yet.
There was a certain camaraderie in the way many people stayed in their seats. Some were still wiping away tears, or yelling to their friends who’d come with them. But as the music continued to play over the speakers, a somber air had settled over the audience as the lights came back on. An overwhelming feeling of sadness settled over her like a blanket, heavy and suffocating. It was bittersweet, watching the last bits of confetti finally come to the ground as people slowly began to make their way out.
She would remember this night forever, she was sure of that. She’d recorded as much of the concert as she’d could so she could watch it again and again. Her throat was a little scratchy from all the cheering and singing along she’d done, but she didn’t regret it. She’d do it all over again from the beginning.
Now though, she’d have to return to the real world, where she would go back to work in a few days, as if the concert had never happened. She briefly wondered if she’d be able to take some more time off for another tour stop, but she knew that was just wishful thinking. Nothing more than a desire to prolong the burst of serotonin she’d received from watching them on stage, singing and dancing their hearts out.
They always looked like they were having the time of their lives, no matter how hard the choreography looked. Of course, it took a lot of hard work to be up on that stage, physically and mentally. From the choreo to the things fans and even haters said online, to see the group succeed against such insurmountable odds in an industry full of titans was incredible.
A world tour was one of their biggest goals. She was sure they would be going back to their hotel room to celebrate, maybe even start a live. But as thoughts of their journey circulated through her head, her throat tightened. They’d accomplished so much in a short amount of time. Even the members had teared up a bit when they’d spoken about it in their ending ments.
She swallowed hard and swiped her eyes with the sleeve of her hoodie. She supposed she ought to get moving now, but she still couldn’t bring herself to leave just yet. She let out a heavy sigh and looked at her phone. Was this what Cinderella felt like at the ball as midnight approached, knowing that she’d have to leave all the wonders and magic she’d just experienced behind?
A huff of laughter escaped her lips and she shook her head at herself. There would be other concerts, she told herself. Just because this one was over didn’t mean there wouldn’t be more. They would be back, eventually, or she could always travel to see them again. This was far from the end of the journey.
When she closed her eyes, she could still see the swaying lightsticks, blinking in time with the music, changing colors depending on what song was playing. She could still picture the wave as they waited for the encore performance. Pictures and video could never entirely do it justice. When she opened her eyes again, most of the seats were empty now. The majority of the crowd had filtered out into the lobby. Even the people on the floor, those who were lucky enough to be so close to the stage, to have that playful interaction all night, had left once the music finally cut off.
It was bittersweet. Though her seat had been good, with a good view of the extended stage, she couldn’t help but be a little jealous of the fans that could afford such seats—to have their biases notice them and wave to them. One of the members had even come down to the corner of the extended stage, where he’d knelt down while performing—probably close enough for some to reach out and touch him. Maybe next time, if she saved up enough, she could have that experience, but for now, this had been the best she could do.
Slowly, she rose to her feet, making her way down the stairs, rather than up to the exit. She thought for a moment, then began to gather the confetti she could. At the very least, she could make a little souvenir, one of those little aesthetic jars she saw people post online. Sure, she’d stood in line for the hoodie, but this was different. She didn’t need much though, deciding only a handful was probably fine, and dumped it in her bag.
The sound of footsteps echoed through the empty arena and she jerked, eyes wide, figuring security had arrived to kick her out. In her haste, she banged her head on the arm of one of the chairs and hissed, immediately clutching at her head as tears sprang to her eyes.
“Are you okay?” a voice asked, a little accented, but in perfect English, before repeating the question in Korean.
Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head as she managed to look up, finding one of the members crouching at the edge of the stage, his hair a little mussed up and brows knit together in concern. Of course, it had to be her bias that caught her making a fool of herself. His eyes widened further at the sight of her tears.
“I-I’m okay,” she managed to say, rubbing the injured area as blood rushed to her cheeks in embarrassment. “I’ll be fine.”
He looked around for a moment, pursing his lips. When he was satisfied no one was around, he reached into the basket that had held their water bottles and pulled out two. He set one beside him, then looked at her.
“Catch?” he asked, tilting his head slightly before lightly tossing it to her.
She fumbled, nearly dropping it twice before finally managing to secure it in her hands. The sound of his laughter made the tips of her ears turn red, but there was no malice in his smile, only his dimples.
“It’s cold, it should help,” he stated, pausing and looking over his shoulder. “I gotta go. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m sure,” she managed, feeling overwhelmed from the gesture of kindness. Gingerly, she placed the water bottle against the rising bump on her head, and his smile widened at the sight. It was far from an ice pack but, he was right. It did feel a little better.
“Come see us next time too! We’ll be back!” he grinned, giving her a thumbs up.
Her mouth went dry, her brain suddenly forgetting how to speak as he turned and rose to his feet, carrying his water bottle with him as he started back up the stage.
“I-I will!” she finally managed to spit out. “I’ll work hard so I can afford better tickets next time!”
His laugh seemed to echo in the empty space as he turned around to her, clenching his fist.
“Fighting, noona!” he cheered, before jogging back across the stage and disappearing.
She sucked in a deep breath, heart thundering in her ears as it beat a steady rhythm against her rib cage. She turned on her heel and hurried up the stairs as fast as her legs could carry her, a breathless laugh leaving her lips.
“Well, now I definitely have to get VIP tickets next time.”