“So, what I would suggest you to do is to rethink the way Tori would or change up the circumstance a little bit. It sort of feels similar to the first book. And…are you even listening to me?” Ian asked, peeking through his glasses.
As soon as he snapped his fingers, Erska’s staring yet out of focus eyes shook a little. The image of Ian seemed a lot more realistic now as she leaned forward, grinning. “Come again, dear sir?”
“Do you even want to write your second book??” he asked.
“Yes! Definitely! No doubt about it!” Erska exclaimed rapidly, slapping her cheeks towards reality, “Once more?”
Ian exhaled out heavily while Erska forced a smile. Multiple sessions with her editor proved to not only exhausting but also hopeless. She thought it would be a great idea to work on Daniel & Tori’s life after their union but she wasn’t feeling the characters anymore. Despite attempting at a sketchy draft upon the suggestions of those in her circle as well as due to the great response from the public (mainly consisting of teenage girls), she was left unsatisfied like her editor. Long bouts of frustration had her move onto finding newer inspirations but it was in vain. So far she hadn’t talked to anyone regarding her thoughts about starting a completely new one until she had a rough synopsis in mind which would appease her editor as well as her mother.
“Time off for today?” Erska asked.
“Again??” Ian reasoned, taking off his glasses. He was ready to pull every hair strand his human body has offered him.
“I’ll work on it. Keep whatever you said in mind. I’ll see if a new sub-plot that would spice things up open to me..would that be fine?” she asked, partially lying. In the back of her mind, she begged her brain to start thinking of something new that would challenge and fire her up. The last thing she wanted to do was for her second novel to end up like her first. Things must change for the better. At least from now onwards.
Erska basically dumped the cluttered mess of papers into her tote as Ian looked at her suspiciously. “Work on it, okay?” Ian repeated.
“Of course, of course. I’m going downstairs to read through some books, take my mind off and start working!” she said as she closed the door behind her. At least until I meet with Bastian.
She found it hard for her mind to push away the prospect of romance that her friends had viciously ‘injected’ into her. Most of the time she found herself smiling infectiously like an idiot. It was so bad that last night, her parents had speculated seriously on calling a psychiatrist during dinner just when the butler was slicing up a whole roasted turkey.
“Hey Erska!” Nate shrilled, popping out of nowhere as she began setting her laptop on a table, present in the corner of the room. Few who were reading looked up in slight annoyance yet at the sight of Erska, they continued going back to their tasks.
“Heeyyy ummm keep it down, Nate…” she said, gesturing him to lower his voice.
“Okay, okay”, he said as he sat on the bench opposite to her, “C’mon give me some spoiler of your next big hit..”
“Spoiler? Does my mom know you’ve been slacking??” she asked, partially distracted.
“Oh please being the receptionist on most weekdays here is absolutely boring except for the occasional crazy parties and food. After all, you are my main bragging point. So, do tell. You got something, anything?”
“Nope,” Erska said sternly as she saw Nate’s face pout but changed her mind soon, saying, “Umm, maybe I can let you out on a secret??”
He leaned forward, almost earning an irritated look from others. “Say!”
“Well, what do most people think my second one is going to be about?” she asked, mischievously.
“It’s a continuation of your first one, right?” he said with a ‘matter-of-fact’ voice.
“No one knows but it could be a different one, you know,” she said with a sinister-looking face, “New, never seen before and no one knows about it..”
Initially, Nate’s mouth hung open but after pondering for a while, he went, “I heard nothing of that sort. Wait. Your mom, Ian ..no one knows?”
“Nope,” Erska said, shaking her head.
He got up, unamused. “Which basically means it’s unofficial and probably untrue. No matter what you think, whatever is officially discussed is the outcome, don’t you think so?” With that, he walked off with a forced smile, leaving Erska sour.
“What’s with the frown?” Bastian said, smiling as he sat beside her.
Erska almost jumped. “Oh..hey..didn’t see you coming..” she dragged, unsure.
“Well, my skills are on spot. I make a good thief.”
“Ohhh. So, that’s what you do, huh?” she asked, folding her hands.
“No, no umm…” he muttered hoarsely, staring at the ceiling. Erska joined him in his bird watching if birds ever hanged out on ceilings. “Are you seeing things I can’t, dear sir?”
“Oh, oh..nothing like that. It’s just a bit embarrassing situation. I’m currently unemployed. Working with my cousin..” he rattled.
“Yep, Haruhi. She owns Solitarie..”
“Ohhh yes. Solitarie. That’s pretty famous. Can’t really imagine you hopping around in an accessory shop..” Erska added with a chuckle.
“Please. I could be a hand model” he said in a serious tone, his fingers dancing in the air in wave-like forms to show a short demonstration.
“That probably, you could,” she said, nodding enthusiastically.
Bastian leaned towards her. “So, you agree?” he asked.
Erska held her breath, slightly quivering. Her instinctual vision could only afford to highlight his flashing smile, glimmering hazel green spheres and a lengthy mess of black hair. Close. Too close.
“Aaaaaah..” she said, instantly placing her hands against him as she pushed herself back on the bench to create space between them “Yes, I do. Wouldn’t…be that surprising, huh?” She heaved a sigh.
“Exactly what I think,” he said folding his hands. That was a tad cute. This is going to be fun.
“Okay..so,” she said, getting up, “What are we going to do? Hopefully, not sitting and chatting up. I’m sick of sitting here..”
“Ohhh..umm I thought you were going to work on something..” Bastian said as he pointed towards the open laptop.
“I was,” she said as she folded the device immediately. “But I think the moment I stare into the screen, I’ll contract unknown madness. Let’s go out…” Placing the laptop in her tote, she was ready to hit the streets.
“So, where do you wanna go?” Bastian asked, getting up.
“I don’t know..somewhere ..” Erska replied with a gallic shrug as she walked towards the door.
“Teenage Dream? Would seem like it is any young girl’s fav place for a cup of coffee..” he suggested.
“Uhhh…I might run into people I know…” she said, rolling her eyes.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“My second novel’s..not going very well and I’m trying my hardest to avoid answering questions..”
Bastian clapped his hands. “Wonderful! That, I shall ask. How is your second novel?”
She plastered a smile on her face. “You’re making me uncomfortable, sir.”
“I take pleasure in your discomfort. No, but seriously, why though? Let’s make this casual…I mean you like doing what you do…you even told me, I mean everyone during the writing session that what you want to is to release your second one with the fullest of your efforts….”
Erska breathed deeply. This was going to take time. “You see, what I and everyone around naturally thought was that it would be a sequel but by now, I’m tired of seeing the same things over and over again. I’m partly convincing myself going for something fresh might be for the better.”
“So, go on. Do that. Do you need some sort of special help with that?”
“I can do that only if I’ve got a rough idea but my brain is refusing to budge from a holiday called laziness…like I don’t have anything. It’s so bad I’d trade the pain I gain from plucking my strands for a good idea..” she chattered in irritation.
Bastian crinkled his nose in thought. “That would an ugly sight to watch now…so, let us see what a layman like myself can help you with. Genres preferred?”
Erska narrowed her eyes. “Do you know what my first book is about, apart from being the total liar you were?”
“Vaguely, I know it is about romance. At least that’s what the summary told me.”
“Wait. You aren’t a bookworm??” she questioned.
She stood on the spot, unable to comprehend. “I mean, I get that you ‘wanted to know me’ but I thought you would at least like reading. There has to be something in common for like a connection. What the hell do you mean by wanting to know again?”
“Just that. Nothing more. Nothing less,” he replied.
“The connection part?” she repeated, turning towards him.
“You know what? Why do you think there has to be a connection? Like there are a lot of people who go together even when they aren’t very similar. Obviously, We’ve all got our own characteristics that might feel appealing to others. Purely in that sense. Don’t you see a lot of couples like that??”
“You are missing the point here. Your situation …did you just say couples?!” she asked, dumbfounded.
Bastian bit his lip as if he hadn’t flirted on purpose. “Uhh umm well, just an example…I mean why not..”
“Getting to know each other doesn’t exactly mean like being romantically involved..” Erska explained as she tried to be rational and facially stoic.
“Why not?” Bastian asked, a slight smirk playing on his face which was trying its best to irk the hell out of Erska.
She stomped off forward by two steps saying, “ So, initially my idea, that is the genre was slice of life..and there were corrections, problems…”
Bastian hurried to catch up with her speedy pace. And that is how they were going to spend the day. An unanticipated casual stroll to whatever place it was taking them.
“How is he doing?” Orfer asked.
“Not too well…He’s been drinking and rambling all evening. I had to close shop early. I thought it was going to be something casual when he brought in a bottle and two glasses. Didn’t think of the fact that he was going to drink from the bottle straight up..” Haruhi said through her Draphacon as she looked at an asleep Quincy. Too bad Franklin was out shopping, Haruhi had a hard time dragging him to Bastian’s room. Quincy’s antics raised to a level of petty when he wasn’t sober. As soon as he fell on the bed, he slept in like a baby which prevented him from engaging in drunk behaviour.
“I thought since he wanted to be with Bastian, Quincy was going to feel better..maybe I thought wrong..” Orfer said. “Does Bastian know yet? Maybe sharing might relieve him a bit..”
“No, sir. He says he wants to take things at his own pace. I’ll take care of him…it is not a big deal. Will let you know if anything changes,” she assured him.
“Please do. I don’t want to add more headaches to my lifeline. I’m already at my edge. You know that at the HQ – we are all for making the Drapha’s life as easy and as lavish as possible, right? Don’t hesitate to ask for anything. I just want things to get resolved…” he continued, catching his chance to bring up his bold quip, “After all, we don’t want it to end like ..you know who I’m talking about.”
“Sure, sir,” Haruhi stated, gritting her teeth. The old man never misses a chance!
“Oh, and I want either you or Bastian keeping him under watch. I’m sure Quincy’s in a very sensitive state. Since Quincy is very young, it is even more problematic. I think you’d understand what I’m trying to say. That is why I wanted to contact you directly. Contact Maria from the administrative team for anything…” he explained.
“Thank you for your service, Haruhi.” And the call cut. She looked at Quincy and sighed. How long will you keep this up? The faster it ends, the better you’ll cope with it.
Faint footsteps could be heard from the outside. The door flung open as Bastian jumped through it and landed with a boxing stance. He was particularly surprised to see Haruhi and a sleeping Quincy in his room.
“Aaaah! It was only you. I was doubtful since the door was slightly open..” Bastian said as he sat on the bed, slightly pushing Quincy towards the other end, “What did ya’ll do?”
“Nothing much. Just drinking and Quincy got into it. It was a tough process heaving him to your room…” she explained.
“While you were at it, you should have just deposited him in a new room. I can’t have him hanging around in my private space…”
“Orfer’s orders. He’ll stay with you..” she said as she walked towards the door.
“Orfer’s orders? Why does he care?” Bastian asked, his ears perked up.
“Apparently, he wants Quincy watched 24/7. Either you or me.”
“What? You mean babysit this dude??” Bastian asked, feeling ludicrous at the outcome.
“Yup. I know you are wooing the Saphine princess and all but take this as a side job if you want your vacation long and pleasant. How is the wooing going by the way?”
“Good, actually. Like pieces of the puzzle are falling. I realized my usual assignments are similar characteristically like you know girls who haven’t dated or the revenge taking types and very straightforward with their demands. Basically, people who had acquired everything they’ve wanted except for their troubled love life. Erska feels the same in a way yet slightly different. One of the challenging cases, I suppose…” he said.
“Good for you, then. You’ve got it all figured out, I hope.”
“Yup. On track now,” Bastian said as his fingers formed a peace sign.
“Tomorrow I’m expecting around three clients. Big jobs for me. I can’t exactly hang with Quincy. You’re gonna have to look after him,” she said as she closed the door behind him.
“Excuse me???” Bastian almost cried out, horrified. He leaped towards the closing door to get a hold of Haruhi.
“Yes, your turn. I had to look after him today..”
“You mean to babysit him literally???”
“Orfer wasn’t joking. You should ask Quincy himself what he conspired at the HQ for his present situation,” she said, her eyes lazy. Haruhi was obviously tired.
“I’m going to hang out with Erska. What am I supposed to do??” he asked.
“Three of you can have a nice little date then. You’re the charmer. I think you can handle a girl and a baby at the same time,” she said, forcing a smile as she closed the door to her room on Bastian who was left blinking.