My First Lead

Elisa wishes she could be the female lead in a Korean drama. Little does she know, her wish is about to come true...and it ain't as pretty as she thinks.

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1. I. Elisa Makes A Wish

Elisa

It was the middle of the night. Three a.m., to be more exact. She had gone to bed at around midnight, but she hadn't been able to get any sleep whatsoever. It wasn't the first time it happened, and it wouldn't be the last either.

Already knowing there was no point in trying, she decided to turn on her computer and catch up on her newest favorite Korean drama. Funny enough, the male lead in there also had insomnia. That little detail made her feel a little less lonely.

Ha. Like that made anything better. She wasn't precisely a social butterfly. Hell, sometimes she was even too lazy to talk to the few friends she still had. Still...it felt nice to feel connected to someone for a little while, even if that someone turned out to be a fictional character.

Aw, but he was so cute! And the way he kept looking at the female lead...would someone ever look at her that way? Would someone ever feel jealousy over her? That unbearable need to protect her? She sighed as she wondered: What would it be like to be the female lead in a k-drama?

Are you sure that's what you want? A voice inside of her asked.

Yes, she answered. Even if it's just for a few days, I'd love to know what it's like.

Shortly after that, she passed out.

 

***

Elisa woke up in one of the comfiest beds she'd ever been. The light struck bright from the window, forcing her to open her eyes.

Her computer was still in front of her, just as she'd left it. What had she been doing, again? Oh, right! Watching a drama. Had she even finished the episode?

As she tried to remember the characters and the dialogues, trying to piece the episode together, her eyes opened wide. This...wasn't her room, though she had seen it before...in photos.

She sat up. Was she dreaming? Had she somehow jumped between dimensions in her sleep? 'Cause if she had, well, that was freakin' cool. But also scary. Very, very scary.

"Alright, Elisa. Focus. What happened before you passed out?"

The voice. She had heard a voice. Why? Oh! Because of her wish! Elisa's jaw dropped as she took another look around.

"Did I...Did I get myself inside a drama?" She laughed. It sounded so stupid, but how else could she explain that room? That perfect lighting that made everything look so ethereal?

She jumped out of bed. Okay, the floor felt real enough. She tried tapping on it with her foot; in her dreams, gravity never seemed to exist. She would always fall through floors or walls, except for this time. Right. A good sign, definitely.

Next, she tried walking. In her dreams, her walking was always awkward; her legs always felt so heavy and clunky. However, this time, she could walk just fine. She went from one extreme of the room to another. She allowed herself to smile now that she had ensure the basic physics of the world worked.

So far, as long as she could tell, it was all real. What was next? The growling of her stomach answered that.

"Only I could get hungry in a dream."

Not a dream, the voice in her head reminded her, a drama.

She chuckled. This was fun!

Only...the good times didn't last. She had been able to find a packet of ramen in one of the cupboards, but that was the thing: It was just one single packet. She enjoyed it, of course, but she hadn't expected the drama to get so real so quickly. It was that how she realised that, just like in the real world, she had to get a job.

So, she enjoyed her breakfast, and then headed back towards her computer. It was a little overwhelming because, well, everything was written in Korean. She wasn't completely clueless, but she was still a slow reader, and she was definitely not advanced enough to understand every single word.

"Come on, Elisa. There's no time for that. What was that website to find a job?"

She typed in "alba" on the search bar, and luckily the results she was looking for appeared. She clicked on the website which, again, was entirely in Korean.

"I'm gonna be here for five years. Okay..."

She scrolled down until she could see some familiar logos: fast food restaurants, department stores, coffee shops...she clicked on one of them. She was able to infer some of the information they asked for -- how long she wanted to work for, on what days, and at what times. Easy enough.

Then, she reached the listings section, and this is when it got ridiculous. She attempted to read them until her head hurt. Finally, she said:

"Nope!" And closed down her laptop. "I can't."

Well, she had to do something. She didn't know for how long she'd be there, so she couldn't just risk being out of food. What could she do, though? How would she handle this situation in the real world?

***

Elisa stood right in front of a restaurant. She chose that place because it was one of the few words in Korean she recognised, and this type of places was always in need of help, right? She gathered up some courage, and went in.

The lady, who she assumed was the owner, looked at her with curious eyes.

"You here to eat?" The woman said in English.

Elisa was a little taken aback, after all she had prepared herself to beg however she could in Korean...but she wouldn't pass up on this opportunity, though.

Elisa flashed a smile. "I'm here to ask for work."

"Work?" The woman repeated; she must've been looking for that word in her internal dictionary. A few seconds after, she shook her hands. "No. No work."

"What? Are you--"

The woman ushered Elisa towards the door. "No sign. No work!"

And just like that, Elisa was out. The woman shut the door right in her face before she could try anything else. She peeked through the window and saw the woman shooing her with her hands.

Well, that was that, apparently. "What other words do I know?" What other part-time jobs appeared in dramas?

***

"Welcome!" said the convenience store clerk behind the register. Unlike the restaurant lady, this man had spoken in Korean.

Once again, Elisa flashed a wide grin. "Hello! I'm looking for a job."

The man stared at her in silence. Uh-oh. Had her pronunciation been that horrible?

"Did...did we have an interview today?"

"Oh! No. Not exactly."

"I don't remember scheduling anything for today."

Elisa only half-understood that sentence, but she decided to keep trying, anyway. "I'm a very good worker! I'm kind, and I can clean, and..."

"Maybe I left a sign on the window," the man muttered. Apparently, he didn't even bother to listen to Elisa's hustle. Instead, he just approached the window, confirming it was sign-free.

Elisa followed him. "Sir."

"I gotta get back to work. Go back to Alba and apply there."

The man returned to his place behind the counter. Elisa could only hunch her shoulders and leave the store.

She sighed. Well, at least the view was amazing. Very realistic for a dream...or a drama...or wherever she was. It was so realistic that she even got a whiff of what she imagined was street food.

"Oh no." It smelled wonderful, actually. "Don't you dare..." She clutched her stomach just as it released a deep growl.

Perfect.

***

Dae

"Ma'am. More soju, please." Dae chugged down the last glass that was left.

The lady stepped away from her cooking station with a bottle of soju in her hand, which she placed in Dae's table as he continued to munch on his sundae, his dark hair covered his face.

He was so focused on eating that he didn't notice the girl standing outside the tent. It wasn't until he felt a piercing stare that he decided to look.

Western girl. Her height as average as her face. At least he could relax knowing she wasn't exactly staring at him but at his food.

"Pathetic," he muttered before taking a sip of his refilled drink. He set the glass on the table and waved at the girl.

She finally noticed him. Dae motioned her to come over. She hesitated, looking around before pointing at herself.

Dae nodded. "Yeah, you. Who else?"

The girl jogged towards him. Dae looked at her sternly.

"Sit down." The girl widened her already buggy eyes. It only made her look more unattractive. "Do you not speak Korean?" He snapped. "Sit!" He even made a motion with his hands.

She pointed at the stool next to her. Dae nodded. Damn, was she slow. When she finally sat down, it looked like she'd been about to say something since she opened her mouth, but Dae beat her to it and pushed his plate towards her.

"What is this?" She asked.

Ah, so she did speak Korean. Dae poured himself another drink. "What does it look like?"

"I'm fine." She pushed the plate away, but the growling in her stomach gave her away. Dae snorted before downing down his drink. "Thank you," she finally said.

"So, who are you?" He asked.

No reply from her.

He tried again. "Where are you from?"

Nothing.

"Are you lost? Are you a ghost?"

"A..."

"A ghost." He even did an impersonation of one.

The girl laughed. "I...I suppose I'm lost."

"Do you have a name?"

She nodded. "Elisa."

"Elisa. I'm Chin Dae."

He drank another glass of soju as he watched her chew painfully slow.

"Isn't it a little early to be drinking?"

"Isn't it a little early in our relationship for you to be concerned about me?" He smirked. "How did you get here, anyway? Did you just drop from the sky?"

She laughed again. Probably out of embarrassment. She seemed to be considering something, and Dae knew that whatever was coming was good.

"Do you believe in...impossible things?"

"Impossible how?"

"Like...going into a dream? Or another world?"

"Like an alternate reality."

She shifted her eyes. "Sure."

"Interesting." Another drink. "Tell me more."

"I can't."

"Come on. Don't be shy."

"No, I literally don't know the words to explain it."

Now it was Dae's turn to chuckle. He lowered down to pick up his backpack and retrieve a sketchbook. There was a pencil in between the pages. Dae passed the pages --pages and pages of drafts, comic strips, and character concepts--until he reached a blank page. He both the sketchbook and pencil to Elisa.

"Draw it."

"I'm not good at drawing."

He shrugged. "Neither am I."

With a smile, Elisa took the pencil. Dae watched her work as he gulped down his last drink.

***

Dae returned home with a smile. None of his annoying roommates had returned yet, which was great for him. He settled down on the couch, and slowly reviewed the girl's story. He particularly enjoyed her communication struggles; those were definitely the best part.

Once he had reached the end, he pulled up both of his legs and crossed them. He set a cushion over his lap to give more stability to the sketchbook, and drew the basic lines for the first panel.

He was still smiling.

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