“Any improvements?” Vidya asked.
“Yes but it is a tad cryptic, I should say,” Bastian replied, unsure. He was leaning against the wall, balancing the Draphacon and petting Tamago.
“I think I kind of got her cornered and it went like ‘wanting to put her best into her next novel’ and something else that went along the lines of she wanting to be mute and stuff like that. I believe she is in some sort of internal turmoil. I understood that during two instances -at the Gala I was invited to, there was obvious discomfort apart from her random mumbling that I heard yesterday. The latter was under alcoholic influence but no harm done though…” he briefed her on his current status.
“Alright..you’ll try to work on both..do you have a plan yet?”
“Not exactly..” he said in a hesitant tone.
“Do you require any help or going with the flow as usual?”
“I think I’m going to gather as much as help as I can..for now…look into different angles…do you have anything in mind for me, Vidya?”
“I’m not pushing anything on you. Let’s take the first part about her novel. Giving her best can simply mean putting her full efforts, maybe the emotional support can come under it. Like a person to lean on or share..can be personal too…As for the second part, it seems ..more emotional…like an outburst…did you come across anything that could be termed an emotional outburst?” she asked.
“Well…when I happened to see her cry profusely. Though I’m not sure of the reason, she seemed to have infuriated her mother. I could feel the same thing when I had met her once again, she felt disappointed by her mother’s intrusion at a writing group. As for her friends, feels weird. Can’t quite point it out yet…” Bastian elaborated.
“Okay but confirmation is always necessary, Bastian. I know you’re experienced and everything. This is just my concern as your reporting officer. Emotions shift at a faster pace. If it is all according to what you say, she is having a tough time within her place in the society…” Vidya interpreted.
“Tough, huh? Sounds weird. A successful author, supporting parents is what anyone views in plain sight…don’t you think that the incidents that I might have quoted just be…minor mishaps..you know, like ups and downs in life..” Bastian questioned.
“True. Might be. That’s why: confirm always before acting.”
“Thanks. I’ll see what to do….Anything else?”
“What about her medical status? Any idea?” she asked.
“Nope. Will check,” Bastian said as he jotted it on his whiteboard, “And before I forget, I want a favour to be done…”
“Can I get a revision done on my assignment?” he asked.
Vidya sat back. “A revision? Are you trying to abandon after all?”
“No. No. Just a reassurance so I’ll know that I must put my best after all. It feels weird. Sounds like a whiner, yup but just a reassurance to boost myself…” he chattered quickly.
“Okay. I’ll let you know if anything pops up. See ya, Bastian.”
Clicking off his Draphacon, he let Tamago jump from his arms. Creating a separate column on his whiteboard, he wrote hints from his conversation with Vidya that might be useful in his assignment. A month was almost over and speeding up the process was the need of the hour.
“What are you doing ?” said a voice, creeping from behind. Bastian, astonished, stumbled back. Quincy’s bags had invaded Bastian’s room as he spread himself on Bastian’s bed like he was resting on a divan.
“I understand that we don’t have bell boys here. Do you need help moving into a room or something?” Bastian asked, hands folded.
“Nope. I’m staying here.”
“No can do, sir. I’ll pay half the rent. I either be welcomed by a red carpet or fall into your arms…” Quincy said as he reached for a bowl of grapes. A swat from Bastian landed on his hand. Pulling back his hand, Quincy rubbed it in pain.
“You know how wrong it sounds, Quincy…”
“Not bothered. Never cared. Like what’s a bromance without ‘romance’? You know what I mean, huh?” he asked, smirking.
Bastian pressed a pillow on Quincy’s face. “Shut up.”
“Why did you call us if all you planned to do was lie on the bed, huh?” Alia scolded, slapping Erska’s shoulder. Erska was lying on her stomach, a mess of frizzy hair falling towards the floor while her dangling head was on the verge of decapitating itself.
“Tell us, woman. It’s a rare moment when you whine,” Freya prodded her.
“Shania isn’t coming. Practicing for a competition held in Russia,” informed Ira, scrolling through her phone.
“Let’s lift her up…that’s the only way..” Alia said. They caught hold of her shoulders, lifting Erska’s torso while her legs plopped on the bed in an awkward position. Erska redid her small bun, her face dazed.
“What is the matter???” Freya asked, shaking Erska’s silhouette vigorously.
“We could have hung out at Teenage Dream at least…make our presence worthwhile, yo!” said a slightly irritated Ira.
Erecting her spine, Erska exhaled out and stated, “I might have a boy problem.” Ira looked up from her phone, everyone looking at each other before closing in on Erska’s tired figure.
“Tell us. Tell us,” Alia repeated, excited.
“Okay, it’s not like the boy problem you’d expect, okay.. like I’m doubtful yet it does not seem normal at the same time. The reason why I’ve called world-class experts like yourself to analyse this messy situation of sorts. Just hold on to your horses before-”
“To the details, shall we?” Ira pressed.
“Who is it? Do we know the dude?” Freya asked.
Erska exhaled and said, “Yes. It is Bastian-”
“That hottie from the party!?”
Before Erska could finish, the girls chorally ‘ooohed’, nudging her shoulders. Erska felt like being stuck in the middle of gigantic snowmen, blocking her path.
Alia put her hands up in the air. “Okay, okay. We’ll calm down. Let us know the signs, gestures, signals whatsoever that may point you to what you feel..”
“Absolutely necessary, darling. Some men just looooove to play games,” Freya added.
After pondering for a while, Erska responded, “First thing is that he called himself a writer but I found out that he faked doing that. He tells me that he wanted to ‘get to know’ me.”
“Bad news. You don’t fake professions though…” Alia commented.
“And it did feel like he approached me on purpose, I found him staring at me once at Teenage Dream and the same night, I found him at Bon Voyage! But Nate cleared him out to be another fellow writer and-”
“Woah. So, he’s stalking you??” Ira frowned.
“Apart from all these..err..discrepancies, he did stand up for me..”
“Stand up for you? And the circumstances being? Because I know you don’t exactly let people have their way..” Alia wondered.
“That was because my mother decided to interrupt me mid-session of writer’s group with her enticing invitation to Luna in Marune. Just a stupid excuse so that I’d entertain some connection of hers….so, we got drunk and-”
“Wait. Wait. Drunk?? You don’t simply get drunk unless it is us around you! What happened?” asked Ira, engrossed.
“I wasn’t letting Miss Connection that my mother sent have her way…she insisted on drinking and then introduced me to some dude who tried to kiss me and oooof! A slap across his face from yours bravely Bastian…And then, I was doing bottle after bottle in frustration…I know my mother was going to be very displeased with my behaviour..” Erska explained.
“That seems like a person with conscience…” Ira remarked.
“Oh and he also got me home!” Erska exclaimed, suddenly.
“Ohhhh..and nothing happened during the ride back home??” Alia asked, fanning herself in a sly way.
Erska grew silent, that odd memory replaying in her head. “Not really but something vague did happen..”
“Yes?” said Freya as she sat up.
“I told him that his eyes were pretty…and probably played with his hair..and like the distance between us were so close...I think I might have, I hope not but pounced on him? Oh goodness, embarrassing as hell!!” Erska closed her ears in partial horror at her lewd behavioural tendencies.
“Well, the drunk Erska is surely a lot daring..,” Alia said.
“So, how are you concluding exactly?” Ira asked.
“Basically, he’s fake, tells me he just wants to know me. Stood up for me and everything…even if he lied, if he really wanted to take advantage-”
“He could have used you when you were drunk, Is that what you are trying to imply?” Alia asked.
“Yes...I may be overthinking…”
“Maybe..” Ira stated.
“The funny thing is that he didn’t even use my behaviour as an insult when I was scolding him for being ‘fake’. He kept on apologizing over and over again. I did portray as if my memory was hazy but there was no sign of, I don’t know..maybe he took me to be very childish or just another cranky being?” Erska ranted, looking troubled.
“Wait…are you bothered by what he thought of you??” Alia asked.
“Yes, duh! I acted like a complete moron…” she said, facepalming herself.
“Or probably..he has had too many girls to even consider you or your reactions…” suggested Freya.
“No insult but don’t judge people-”
“I thought you said he was a faker!” Ira threw her hands in the air.
“Great! Erska is already falling for someone!!” Alia shouted, pulling Erska into a hug which soon evolved into a group hug. Erska positioned centrally, tried to wriggle her way out.
“I’m not..okay? Guys..I’m not..” Erska whispered weakly that fell on deaf ears.
“What is the worst that can happen?” Alia asked, “You’ve been single for far too long, diving into writing and books. Take risks, babe.”
“ Yea…” Ira said, getting up from the bed, “Win or lose. You win, you gotta hottie in your fingers. You lose, we’ll murder him and drink until your heartbreak sobers up..”
“Who knows? Make him your inspo for your next novel, eh? Add some real-life action so that you wouldn’t have to be shy when we bicker you regarding your love life..” Freya said with a slight snicker.
“My brain is suffering from information overload. I want ya’ll out of my house now….” Erska said, rubbing her face.
“We are leaving anyway. Sure you don’t want to join us at Teenage Dream??” Ira asked.
“Nope. I need alone time. Off ya’ll go. See yourselves out. I’m not walking you out…” Erska said, falling back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.
“Bye, bitch,” Alia said and then, a series of small pillows usually arranged on Erska’s bed rocketed towards Erska’s immovable figure. The door closed and she sat up. Rolling down the opposite side of the bed, she dragged the table containing her laptop, scribbled papers, notepad, highlighters closer to her. She was having a hard time trying to figure out her second novel. Initially, her plan was to write a sequel off her first one but it left her uninspired. Neither was she content with opening her idea note that felt structurally similar to the Pandora jar. Hopeless, she went back to lying on the bed, trying to divert her mind to something new.
The door opened. “Did ya’ll miss me that soon, eh?” she said. As soon as the image of Bastian peeking into the room registered into her head, she rose up in a jiffy, slightly injuring herself against the table in astonishment which forced her to sit on the bed, pressing her toes in pain. A bruise had formed on the left ankle. The next few minutes were spent on Bastian helping her treat her injury.
“Apart from all this..umm..scenario, may I know the reason why you are at my house and how you were let in?” Erska asked.
“Your mother, for some reason, sees me as a saviour for making sure your ‘drunk self’ did not lay down itself for the press to catch a prey…” Bastian explained.
Erska pursed her lips. Typical, mother.
” Secondly, I’ve decided to apologize until you actually forgive me…because it seemed like you ran away into Bon Voyage in frustration, felt like I waylaid you during work…”
That sparked the drunk memory in Erska, the sequence she wanted to erase. She rubbed her cheeks. “Umm not really..it’s just I, I was frustrated but I forgive you..that’s all. You can go, really. No biggie.”
“Are you sure? Because you seemed very very angry the other day..” Bastian asked, re-confirming.
“Yes, yes. Absolutely sure.”
“So, no hard feelings?” he asked, again.
“No, no. We’re good,” she said, smiling.
“So, we’ll start from the beginning, then,” he said, extending his hand.
“Ummm..yea..yes…” she said, grabbing hold of his hand in acceptance.
“Good because I still want to get to know you. You seem like a great person to chill out with. And this time, nothing’s fake. I promise you,” he said, placing his hand on Erska’s as their handshake came to an end.
She giggled. “You sound so much like a movie script…okay, okay..”
“Then, I’ll see you tomorrow. Let’s hang out. Around 10:00 AM. I believe you’ll be at Bon Voyage. Fine with it?” Bastian asked, getting up from her bed. Erska gestured an‘okay’ signal. Maybe few things can be a lot different too. Time will tell.
“I’ll leave you back to what you were doing”, he said, looking at her working space. As Bastian went towards the door, Erska got up suddenly. “You see, I’ll be honest with you too..since we are all playing the ‘truth game’ here..I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, you know at the club..”
“What..do you mean?” he asked, wondering.
“I know I did act inappropriately towards you, being drunk I lose control but many thanks for driving me home,” she rattled.
“Inappropriate…,” he muttered, “What was inapp-…are you talking about your drunk compliments?? Aaah. I understand. No issues. See ya.”
As he closed the door behind him, Bastian could see Erska’s flashing an awkward smile, rubbing her hands as she tucked her bangs behind her ear. The absolute change in the demeanour, as opposed to his previous encounters, changed so quickly.
Well, well you were a hopeless romantic after all. At least I’m back on the usual track now.