It would be an understatement to say awkward silence had invaded their presence. Others surrounded her, waiting for answers but they were intimidated by Erska’s abrupt choice yet the decision maker herself was shit scared.
Welp. I just did that. Goodness. Everyone’s going to hear from me. What will my fans say? The press, friends, mother… Oh. My. God. Mom is going to be so embarrassed! What about dad? Would his head finally pop out of work? Now, what are these people going to tell me? This doesn’t feel right at all but it’s been done and what’s done can’t be revoked but still….
“So, you are going to talk to a newspaper?” Haruhi asked as the others exhaled - the silence was killing them.
“Yes. It’s time to umm fight back,” Erska replied as her fingers fidgeted with her phone.
“Good job, girl. I’ll get you some hot chocolate from Mint&Spice. You deserve it,” Haruhi said with a smile as she patted Erska’s shoulders. “I should probably go check on Fyre. Weird. He has got to start becoming more patient.”
“I’m also going to get a milkshake for myself. It’ll get better, Erska,” Quincy added as he followed Haruhi out the store.
Now, it was just the two of them. The tension was obvious. Bastian hadn’t spoken a word since his hasty arrival, silently observing her as was Erska, conscious of his presence, anger simmering in her.
Bastian walked towards her, grabbed a stool and sat beside Erska who was looking carefully, at his every movement, suppressing her anger.
He said, “That was actually good-”
“I know. I can make decisions for myself. You can stop babysitting me,” she said, cutting him off right away.
He was startled by Erska’s demeanour, leaning back. Her eyes looked angry. “Okay. I’m just saying that as a compliment. I didn’t mean to hurt you or like demean you.” He held his hands in defense.
“I don’t want your compliments. Look. I appreciate you defending me,” she barked while the pit of the stomach stirred. “But I can carry myself from now onwards.” Saying that, she got up from the stool, walking away from Bastian but was interrupted as he held onto her arm firmly.
“What is your problem now?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she replied, sighing.
Bastian looked into her coal black eyes and said, “Look. I need to know. I’m being serious because-”
“Can you please cut out the crap?” Erska shot back. “Can you stop pretending to be Mr. Nice all the time?”
Bastian frowned. “Mr. Nice? What’s wrong with you?”
“Haven’t got to be somewhere? A date, perhaps?” she reminded him.
“And I let Fleur know about a friend being in trouble. So, there’s no problem,” Bastian reasoned.
“Your Prince Charming act is getting out of hand, Bastian.” Saying that, she roughly flung his hand and walked out of the store the other way, heading in no particular direction while she tried hard to calm her raucous, conflicted mind down. Bastian slowly trudged behind her, confused.
Quincy who was watching all this drama from Mint&Spice walked out, carrying his milkshake. He placed his hand on Bastian’s shoulder and said, “Remember when I told that you were unconsciously trained in the art of courtship? You gotta watch out.”
It didn’t take long for the news to go viral. Erska herself opposing her mom was a bait for bloodthirsty reporters swimming around for hot news. As soon as Erska had contacted Globe Mail, calls were pouring in from other sources for confirmation. After responding to a few well known newspapers and magazines, she turned off her phone. Through Quincy’s social media, she got to know that none from Bon Voyage had responded. What would mother think?
Sighing, she fell back onto Haruhi’s bed. As much as she was shocked senseless by the quick turn of actions and her own reaction, Erska regretted the way Haruhi was taking care of her. Not that she was thankless but Haruhi had gone out of her way to make her comfortable, offering her room and her cat for temporary comfort. How am I going to ever repay her back?
“I would have mistaken you for a corpse.”
The voice startled Erska her so bad that she sat erect almost instantly and turned her head around swiftly towards the half-open door through which Bastian was peeking through. Normally, she would have berated anyone instantly that got into a scuffle with her for not having properly apologized. But Bastian’s slightly loose black jogger pants and a grey tank top with a dangerously low neck brought out his best muscular features while the sweat lining across his pale neck, bun tied up – Erska was having respiratory problems internally.
“Something wrong with my face? Why are you staring so hard?” he asked, patting his face, totally oblivious of Erska’s intentions. His mind was more bothered about what Quincy had told him.
“Nothing. You have a bad habit of shocking people,” Erska said, turning her back immediately as she pretended to focus on her idea note which she always carried everywhere. This was of no actual help because Bastian’s image was imprinted so deeply in her thoughts that she had momentarily forgotten her scuffle with him.
“Can I come in?” he asked, looking around.
“Nope. You can leave.”
He stood at the door, hesitant but then, walked slowly and sat next to her, making sure there was enough space between them. Erska’s body tensed. “I asked you to leave, Bastian,” she said, turning towards her note.
Erska took a deep breath and turned towards Bastian slowly and went back to her note a little too soon. Those eyes distracted the heck out of her. “What do you want, dude?”
“I know this may seem weird but ummm do you think I flirt? Like I mean, the way I talk – does it seem flirtatious?” he asked, scratching his head.
Erska choked on her voice, coughing. “Well, yea, you kind of do that. Where did that all that come from all of a sudden though?”
“Quincy. I guess hanging out with him, I get used to his lingo,” he explained. “He probably thought that might be the reason you are frustrated with me.” Though it is not false, I did try wooing her in the beginning.
“Quincy?! So, not only does he admit to playing with girls, he offers you advice! What a queer guy!” exclaimed Erska.
“He’s playful but still he’s a good guy,” admitted Bastian, smiling which also got Erska to smile a little. “So, we’re good?”
“Yes, we are.”
“And, one more thing. It was amazing what you did – standing for yourself. It is an honest compliment,” Bastian said, “I know. I seem to cross boundaries sometimes. It has become my habit. I’m really sorry.”
She felt bad. “But you really did help me, you know my mother and everything. If it wasn’t for giving me a helping hand, I wouldn’t have really gotten anywhere.”
Bastian giggled a bit. “I still remember how you hid behind me. You are really small!” he said, playing with her lavender tresses to annoy her.
“What a way to ruin my respect for you,” she replied, trying to seem serious.
“Respect, huh? That seems like a term with depth, you know,” he said, mimicking Erska’s gestures who was now hitting Bastian. “So, how is your novel going on?”
“Well, not much actually,” she said, attempting to close her note.
“What’s that?” he asked, pointing towards the note.
“A lot of scribbles. Ideas. Nothing concrete though,” she replied in a solemn tone, looking down at her note.
“That’s okay. Take your time. No rush,” Bastian said in order to comfort her.
“No rush?!” Erska exclaimed in a high tone. “What do you mean no rush? I have literally told the world that, I, Erska am going to announce the next novel on her own. People are going to be watching. I’m still not sure what mother or father would say. I’m going to disappoint so many, embarrass myself. The press is going to mock me and I’ll have to hide behind a stone for the rest of my life!”
Bastian was resisting so hard not to swat her but by the time she was done, it swiftly landed on her head as she shuddered out of her senses.
“What was that for?!” Erska asked, surprised.
“Are you even hearing yourself? You don’t have to write your next novel for all those people around you. The reason you stuck your ground was because you’d get to write what you wanted. Why switch sides? Do at your own pace,” Bastian said.
Erska began rattling. “At my own pace?! Dude, I’ve thrown myself out of my own house! I can’t be dependent on Haruhi for the rest of my life! What if I grow to be an old hag, never having written a proper novel, a one-hit wonder destined to live like a crazy cat lady and-”
Bastian was getting tired of her constant self-doubt. Cupping her face, a stunned Erska’s cheeks turned shades of pink, pausing her breath while her eyes met his orbs to scold her yet the sudden warmth feeling and Erska’s peach wet lips struck like a malfunctioning robot, her jet black eyes glistening under the light and a newly formed rose colour racing through her caramel shaded skin, revealed a lot more than Bastian had hoped for.
He mumbled under his breath. “Wait..so, you actually feel..I mean, I didn’t know-”
The door bolted wide open. Both jumped out of the bed, looking indifferent which changed in seconds as they stared at the familiar horde of people that Quincy was about to show in.
“We need to talk, girl,” Alia said, her hands folded while her toes tapped. The others simply smiled but there was a slight awkwardness visible due to how everything had unravelled.
“I should leave,” Bastian said as he walked out of the room, his head slightly lowered and Quincy followed suit, leaving the girls to themselves.
Erska sat on the edge of the bed, her face turned away from them. She sensed their growing presence as they all huddled together playfully, good old laughter, tickling, high pitched squealing to break off the invisible tension.
“Where’s Shania again ?” Erska asked, lying on Gina’s lap as Alia, Freya and Ira looked on.
“I think we should all be asking the same question. Where is Shania?” Ira responded, scrolling through her phone.
“She’s doing some physically exerting stuff, girl. We can’t compare,” Freya stated. “I’m sure she’s all pressured with the number of shows and everything.”
“Physically exerting? Yea, right but we do that kind of shit too..” Ira added.
Alia cocked her eyebrows, tilting her head to one side. “Oh yea, do explain.”
“Come on. We hit the gym and stuff. That’s some pretty physical stuff that we do,” Ira countered in a distracted manner, so distracted that she hadn’t anticipated Erska’s legs locking onto her abs and pinning her down. The other girls joined on to bully the victim.
“The only physical exerting stuff that you do is when you stuff your mouth with pizzas,” Gina commented, choking Ira with a pillow.
And once again the fun died down abruptly, each of them looking awkwardly. What started seeming like an eternity was cut short by Alia’s booming voice. “Okay, ya’ll. Let’s clear the elephant in the room, shall we?”
“Alright,” Erska said, sitting up straight, leaning against Gina’s shoulders.
“So, what are you going to do now?” Gina asked.
“Like I’ve been saying, plan a new novel,” Erska emphasized.
“Alright, but you have to talk to your mother-” Alia began with a soft tone which was rashly interrupted by Ira, asking, “You basically fed the whole world with a mother-daughter feud. What were you thinking??”
“Ira!” hissed the others, collectively.
“Ira is right. Let us get this done with. There is no use going in circles with this conversation,” Erska stated, hands folded in a business-like manner yet her insides were trembling.
“ Lots of consequences, girl. We just saw your mom and honestly, was so devastated. That’s we decided to meet up with you directly,” Freya said, patting Erska’s shoulder.
“I really think it is better you speak with her. We knew that you might try dragging out the eventual fight. Besides, how long are you gonna hide? We’ll go home and sort this out,” Gina added.
“Bu-but my mother is probably gonna go back on her words! I can’t take it anymore! It-It’s not fair!” Erska grunted.
“Maybe it is not fair, Erska but that’s your mother. And she has literally saved your ass so many times. Obviously, a lot with writing and other times when you had boy problems. And we all know how that ended up,” insisted Freya.
“Okay, well,” Erska stuttered. Freya’s long list had Erska’s mind whip up a mini flashback of everything possibly embarrassing in her lifetime. The only thing she was supposed to do now was hide under a shell. “I know that I’ve not taken the best decisions in life but that’s because I was a frickin’ teenager, Freya!” she reminded her while her fingers were engaged in battle with trying not to pull her hair roots out.
“Okay. Okay. Calm down,” Gina appeased, rubbing Erska’s shoulders.
“Let’s all take a breather and look at the big picture,” Alia started to try and fill the emptiness, “ Your mom wants you to do a sequel because she thinks that would be successful and helpful to you but you want to take risks and try out a different one. Have I presented the problem correctly?”
“Yes, you have,” Erska affirmed.
“Now, what are the possible solutions to this problem?” Alia asked. “Go on, guys. Let’s see what we can do.”
“Sort it out with your mom. Come to a truce,” Ira suggested.
“Or go along with your mother’s idea,” Gina said slowly so as to reduce the effect on Erska being all jumpy. Erska leaned back on her, weighing Gina so down that she ended up falling on the other side.
Gina rolled away from Erska and sat up. “Listen carefully. It’s just a suggestion. She knows what she is doing. She’ll help you out the way you want it. Maybe insist on your ideas a little bit more.”
“Really? Because I thought it was ridiculous.”
“She was simply protective,” Ira offered.
“Maybe overprotective,” Erska countered.
“So, what’s wrong? Our parents also cover for us all the time. Ira wanted to express our business overseas. If it weren’t for our fathers giving us out a little bit loan, we wouldn’t have been successful. That’s what our parents do. They help,” explained Freya.
“Maybe I don’t want their help. Maybe this time I just want to do it on my own, my own way.”
“And if you get hurt?” Freya asked.
“Hurt? I don’t care! I was already hurt when she announced it to the world about my sequel while I was being tricked over some-some temporary happy shit! I was out here, distributing muffins, being all happy! I was made a fool too today!” bellowed Erska
“But that is your mother!” Alia exclaimed in a furious tone.
“And it doesn’t matter if I get hurt?!” shot back, Erska.
“We do make our share of sacrifices. I wanted to branch out into movies. It would have been totally possible for me if it weren’t for all the travelling. I understood my family would feel hollow even when one person isn’t present. We are a joint family and we definitely place a lot more emphasis on being together,” justified Alia.
“And this wasn’t because your family didn’t really want you to go into movies because they didn’t consider it desirable?”
Alia bit her lip. “And..that too…but that wasn’t my point.”
“I think your point was very well made, Alia,” Erska replied, cutting her off sharply, taking the others by surprise.
“Okay, then, let’s talk about your plan. So, how solid is your idea for the next novel?” Gina asked.
Erska’s face drooped at the one thing she has been afraid of. “Nope. I got nothing.”
“Then? Nothing solid and you wanna risk a lot for that?” Alia retorted.
“Well, I think some encouraging words would be nice,” Erska replied.
“Ohhh..” Alia dragged with a hint of mockery. “You mean as encouraging as Bastian?”
“Well, yes. And so are Haruhi and Bastian’s friend Quincy,” Erska continued, nodding in affirmation.
“Girl, whatever I saw y’all doing as we entered the room - that seems like the wrong kind of encouragement,” teased Freya with a smirk and that’s when their implication became clear when she looked around the room to see everyone snickering.
“No, guys. That is not like that, I mean, it is not romantic at all, Bastian and I….we’re really, really good friends. It is a huge misunderstanding y’all,” Erska elaborated.
“Friends? Are you kidding me?! You guys were this close to kissing!!” shrieked Ira in disbelief, gesturing two palms turned inwards with almost no space between them.
“Kissing?! We did not kiss!!” Erska countered instantly.
“Both of you looked like we caught you in the middle of something we weren’t supposed to see. He couldn’t even make eye contact with us as he left,” continued Ira.
“Well, the whole thing was becoming weird with my mother and everything. Maybe that’s why?”
“Or maybe he’s simply screwing around. He gets to date a rich, popular girl. He’s encouraging you to do what you want. I don’t think he has true intentions,” interjected Alia.
“Hold on, now! Those are some groundless accusations that you are making, Alia! You can’t simply talk about people like that!” Erska exclaimed.
“You’ve changed a lot, Erska. You know, kind of going against your mom. You spend less time with us. You may be right. You aren’t dating Bastian but we know you had a huge crush on him and an unrequited love is not the most rational thing to follow, not when you are hurting the people you like,” Gina stated calmly.
Erska hugged her knees as she looked at their faces, some angry, others worried. But no matter how much I explain, you’ve never understood me.
“Bastian popped out of nowhere and his intentions were pretty vague from the beginning. I really think this might be a trap,” Gina continued. “Do things your way, try to come to an understanding with your mom and take whatever Bastian says with a grain of salt. We’ve been there for you, girl, from the beginning. We know you. Your parents are proud of you, your mom always showing you off everywhere and your dad, even if he’s busy with business- we all know how much he loves you.”
“It all sounds fine but it is not right that you put down Bastian or Haruhi and Quincy. Yes, they haven’t known me for long but they’ve supported me in little ways. Even if my dreams are unrealistic, they’ve shown truer interests in what I like,” she reasoned.
“And you think we haven’t?” Freya asked.
“I don’t mean to be harsh but most of the time you all simply wanted me to follow whatever mother wanted me to do.”
“Because that is what we did normally!” uttered Freya.
“I don’t want to do things normally anymore! I get it, guys! Y’all are fine with getting help. I understand but I am not fine with it personally. I want to take risks, explore, do some things my own way. I can’t keep being a baby, I have got to spread my roots wider- especially even if I keep meeting failures. How long am I going to keep depending on others?”
“It’s not a big deal. It’s just family,” Alia stated.
“That is not helping me grow the way I want to,” Erska pointed out.
“We are going in circles again. I’d suggest that you try and talk to your mom. After some time, at least. You are going to have to face it. Convince her. I know that she didn’t ask your permission with regards to the sequel but try harder,” suggested Gina.
“What do you think they are up to ?” Quincy pondered, unbothered by the pile of papers arranged before him.
“Have you checked all the bills, Quincy?” Haruhi asked sternly.
“Oh well,” he mumbled, looking down but his curiousity was aroused once again as the clapping of feet descended collectively. Bastian, who was being no help to them, sat up.
“If all you guys want is to get yourselves entangled with drama, I would be very pleased to have you both transferred to a different country,” warned Haruhi as she began segregating the slips into piles. They had been sitting up for almost an hour, only to be creating troubles left and right. Plus, Fyre seemed even more of a handful now that he had disappeared for a while.
As the girls left the motel one by one followed by Erska, a look of mild disdain accompanied their plastered smiles, seemingly targeting Bastian. After a group hug, Erska stood for a while, showing them off.
“So, did some brainwashing go down?” Bastian asked. Erska walked towards the reception, grabbed a chair and plopped herself on it. Quincy seemed expectant as did Haruhi except that she was a multi-tasker, still focused on her job.
“Wow, you seemed to generalize people a lot,” Erska commented. “Anyways, they wanted me to convince her harder and take decisions faster. Apparently, they think I’m hiding from her.” She rolled her eyes.
“Isn’t that what you’re doing now?” Bastian asked in all seriousness.
Erska leaned back, her lips frozen mid-air with no words emerging out of her mouth.
“Tactless idiot,” Quincy interjected, flicking Bastian’s forehead. “So, what are you going to do now? Convince her?”
“No use. If she has gone as far as doing a whole interview on her own, she is going to force me. I can’t do what I want,” she replied.
“And you still want to keep pushing for your ideas no matter what?” Quincy
“Yes…” Erska sighed, “She’ll probably throw me out.”
“Well, at least you have an option now. Homeless but your ideas turn out your way?” Bastian stated, shrugging while his teeth grinned.
“Erska,” Quincy said, grabbing Bastian by the collar, “Let’s pound this bitch.”
“With pleasure,” she affirmed, throwing punches focusing his gut while Quincy disabled Bastian’s hands temporarily. This continued for a while until Haruhi interrupted the scuffle, her palms hitting the table with a thud and the three quietened down, seating themselves on chairs like brats that were caught red-handed by their mother.
“You don’t have to be homeless though. If you are serious about it, I can help you with housing and stuff. You can stay here with us. What do you say? It’s your decision to make,” Haruhi offered. “With Franklin leaving on a fishing trip towards Mexican waters, I could also use some extra help.”