“So, let’s talk about your novel,” Fyre started. “Is that what you truly want to do?”
“Truly want to do?” Erska questioned, tilting her head to one side.
“Let me rephrase. You are going to die very soon and you need one wish to be granted. What would it be?”
Haruhi sat stunned, eyes wide to point that it took some time for her to comprehend that silly Quincy was choking on his water. Their antics caught the attention of the other occupants in the room. Haruhi began patting Quincy’s back a little too hard that he walked away from the kitchen, afraid that graver consequences might harm his body. Haruhi, feeling sorry, followed him out.
“Focus, Erska!” Fyre bellowed, placing his hands on the counter with a thud that got Erska’s spine erect and pupils expanded in attention.
“Well, I wouldn’t say one wish. I mean I want to work on the novel on my own, a wish wouldn’t make it worth it,” she explained carefully.
“Is that your truest desire now? To work and put out the novel the way you want it?”
“Yes, I mean I wouldn’t even have taken such great steps. I can’t imagine me doing something like this. It is almost too true to be good,” she said, her squid black eyes glimmering.
“Alright, princess! Back to reality!” he snapped. “What ideas have you got?”
“Never took you for a feisty one, Fyre. Wait. Why is your name Fyre and with a ‘y’ at that?” she asked.
“Wow. Why don’t you ask my parents? They’ll be glad to take your questions from heaven.”
Erska stuttered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say th-things like that-”
“Can we carry on? Honey, I’m no-nonsense. What ideas have you got?” he pressed on.
She blinked for a while. “Blank. All blank. I got nothing.”
“Themes that you deal with?”
“Slice of life, as I term it. Relationships, family, that kind of stuff..”
“Tell me a little about your first one?” Fyre asked as he wiped the counter.
“The first one’s called ‘His way. Her rules.’ The two leads are Tori and Daniel. So, basically, Tori’s friends are all getting married and she’s starting to feel left out because she’s single, doesn’t have that set of people with whom she usually hangs out. She starts thinking that maybe just casual dating is also affecting her. And there’s Daniel – a gold digger. Both meet and how they end up forms the end of the story,” she explained.
“Alright. Concept’s nice to hear. Were you satisfied with the way it turned out?” he prodded.
“Not exactly. That’s why I'm going to give my all for the next one,” she said as she crossed her fingers.
“And no new ideas that are solid?” he repeated.
Erska shook her head. “Just a lot of scribbles.”
“Okay. Hear me out first. How about a sequel and-”
“No. No. No. Maybe you didn’t know. No. Wait. You did know about how angry I was when my mother announced the so-called sequel that I was about to release and stuff when in fact I wanted to venture into a completely new idea. Come on, dude! Keep up!” she ranted, clapping her hands.
“I said,” Fyre emphasized. “Hear me out. A sequel - that is totally your way. You said the first one didn’t go your way. Then, how would you change things up for this one? If that ended with both of them together, how about this being pre-marriage or post-marriage?”
“I’m so not doing a sequel,” she muttered, annoyed at his attitude.
Fyre looked hard at her and then, broke into a snicker. “You’re such a coward, man.”
“Do you not want to do the sequel because your mom wanted you to or because you don’t have any ideas?” he questioned.
“Obviously because I don’t have any ideas,” she replied, rolling her eyes.
“Not because you felt pressured under an unfavourable environment? I mean, any idea has potential. You have a base already. Plus, you did feel slightly threatened by the way your first attempt turned out. You didn’t like the way you were controlled. So, maybe you are shunning an idea without giving it a clear thought? That’s why..I…thought..”
Shades of confusion emerged on Erska’s face. “What?”
Fyre continued, unbothered about her doubts. “And whatever we discuss, it’s confidential.”
“Because as much as it seems like you are stuck, if you are simply going to keep explaining your problem to people over and over again, it is only going to pull you down. You should be more like let me whack the problem on its head and solve the damn thing in one go.”
“Sounds fair,” Erska said, nodding her head.
“Think over it. Now, let’s have a break. My throat is all parched. I’m going to get some chocolate milkshake from Mint&Spice,” he said as he was about to leave.
“You drink chocolate milkshake when you’re parched?”
“You’ve got a problem with that?” Fyre asked.
“Nope. Get me one too! It’s been so long and I’ve been craving for it. Since I’m no longer being watched,” air quoted Erska. “I’ve been going wild without chocolate.”
“We’re going to be friends, alright,” he said, extending his hand out for a high five all of a sudden. Erska amused by his behaviour, hit his hand hard.
Just as they happily set out to enjoy the treat waiting for them, Haruhi waylaid them with a bowl of boiled peanuts.
“First chore of the day for both of you. Peel these. I want it done in an hour.” She thrust them into their hands and walked off.
“Well, I suppose our chocolate milkshake has got to wait,” Erska sighed, feeling the rough, fibrous exterior of the peanut.
“I have a proposition. Since I’m helping you out for free, why don’t you do this on my behalf? Sounds fair, right? I’m heading off,” he cooed, patting her on the shoulder.
“What the hell just happened?” Erska mumbled to herself as she watched him go.
Thirty minutes later, Erska had peeled the minuscule looking things by herself not without damaging the ends of her nails but she seemed pretty satisfied with her job.
“Guys. Are y’all done peeling? Umm. Where’s Fyre though?” Haruhi asked, peeking in.
“I have no idea but I think I did good,” she said, passing over the bowl. “Fyre did tell me that since I was rendering his services for free, this has gotta be my pay or something. Oh so that basically means-”
“Yea, you got ditched. He’s starting to be a handful,” Haruhi pondered.
“And the devil walks straight in,” Erska mumbled, slightly annoyed at the sight of Fyre casually strolling in with a sweaty Quincy who was drinking chocolate milkshake.
“Fyre. Did you try to get out of peeling?” Haruhi asked, resuming her mother duck duty.
“Please, guys. I just thought it was fair that Erska does my part too. It’s not like I’m doing this on purpose,” he whined.
“I’m keeping my eye on you, boy,” taunted Haruhi.
“It is kind of funny when you treat me like a little child when both of us are almost the same age,” retorted Fyre.
“Won’t that be funnier when I ship you back to where you belong?” Haruhi replied, cocking her right eyebrow. And that sealed his lips.
“Where’s my chocolate milkshake?” Erska asked.
Fyre gritted his teeth impishly and pointed towards an unsuspecting victim whose stench was getting stronger in the kitchen every passing minute. Throwing the cup into the trash, Quincy reached for a water bottle from the fridge and glanced at the onlookers.
“What the hell have you been doing?” Haruhi asked, covering her nose as she reached for the air freshener from the cupboard.
“Jogging, obviously!” Quincy lashed out in a state of excitement as he gulped water, causing tiny streams to flow down his neck which stained his shirt transparent. “Come on!”
“You’ve got to take a shower. I’m not going to allow you to walk around the place like you are drenched in sewage water,” rattled Haruhi.
“Obviously,” he rolled his eyes, removing his shirt. “Mrs. Delaney was talking to me about some party we’re supposed to attending at the Delilah park today evening. Are we going? Is there a dress code?”
“Yup, we are. Thanks for the reminder. Wear something casual but neat. I think they’re simply going to have a gathering of sorts. Some new businesses have moved into his neighbourhood, an ice-breaking kind of thing. That goes both of you too. Fyre and Erska. Be prepared, yeah?”
But Haruhi’s words rang faintly in Erska’s ears for she was busy admiring how ripped Quincy’s body looked.
“I cannot believe there actually came a day where I’d be attracted to you. For a split second, goodness,” muttered Fyre as he gazed up and down.
“You totally read my mind. It’s Quincy for god’s sake,” Erska said in a haze as she turned towards Fyre who was practically drooling.
“Yup. An absolute idiot with a hot body,” Fyre continued.
“I agree,” Erska replied.
“I’m standing right here!!” Quincy grunted. His tired form wasn’t giving him the strength for witty comebacks.
“And you drank my milkshake, you moron,” scolded Erska.
“What? Fyre gave it to me.”
And the culprit had wiggled out of the scene like a pro. “Okay, okay. We’ll deal with him. Get dressed up. If we get there early, we’ll get to taste the best of food. Since everyone from Cafakla will be there, there’s going to be some serious competition. Free good food is the best, nah?” consoled Haruhi as she pushed Erska towards the stairs who trudged like a sorry child.
“You also better get going, Quincy because you can’t come like this-”
“Alright!! I’m going, I’m going,” he grumbled as he proceeded towards the stairs as Haruhi followed him.
“One more thing. I just got to know recently that there was an initiation session held at the HQ. When are you planning to do that? The sooner, the better, Quincy,” Haruhi enquired in a worried tone.
“I understand. I’ll remind myself to apply for the next one. I heard it is coming soon,” he replied.
“Yes, Haruhi?” he groaned, his shoulders all droopy. “ I’m going to get dressed up, I’ll get rid of this smell and-”
“Don’t you think now would be a good time to tell Bastian that you have retired?”
Quincy licked his lips, sighing. “All in good time, Haruhi. All in good time.”
“This is embarrassing, alright,” Haruhi muttered.
“Are you sure we should be letting them do that?” Erska asked as her eyes spotted two familiar figures buzzing around the food section like flies while Haruhi and herself were seated for the ice-breaking session.
“I suppose when it comes to food, surprisingly they have good chemistry. Let’s just make sure we stay as far away as we can from them today,” Haruhi replied. “I wonder when’s Bastian going to turn up?”
“Bastian is coming?!” Erska asked, her back suddenly straightened in attention.
“Yea. After the date, he said he’d turn up with Fleur.”
“Even if he also acts like an idiot, Bastian is a lot decent than the both of them,” she said as she threw a glance their way.
Erska sighed. I wouldn’t mind being a zombie monkey now. All that food looks delicious.
“Hey, guys!” boomed Bastian’s voice.
Both Haruhi and Erska turned around to see Bastian and Fleur seated behind them. Erska couldn’t help but let her glance linger considering Bastian’s loose-fitting dandelion yellow hoodie covered by blue denim jacket, cargo shorts, loose hair and fake silver rimmed glasses. Going for that soft, nerdy look, huh? Not bad.
Suddenly, Fleur leaned towards Bastian, whispering in his ears, both giggling after which she turned her gaze towards Erska while her hands intertwined with Bastian’s who was busy talking to Haruhi. Alright, girl. I’m not planning to steal him. Geez. But she had to admit that Fleur was a catch. She was also wearing a yellow off shoulder dress with white floral prints, light coral blonde hair tied into a bun and cherry red lips. Pissed off, Erska turned around. They must’ve planned it, wearing the same colours and all. She looked at her own clothes – matching white shorts, crop top and sneakers. It looked casual alright except that it also seemed fitting enough for a PJ party. If it weren’t for hoops or lavender hair, it would have been too plain. Touching the blonde ends of her hair, she realized it was growing. Should I re-dye it or give it another colour?
“So, what’s up?”
Erska turned around swiftly, feeling slightly tingly at the neck as if someone was breathing down it. She came face to face with Bastian who was smiling brightly, his emerald eyes sparkling under the fairy lights. She leaned back, trying to adjust herself to the situation.
“Where’s umm Haruhi and Fleur?” she asked, slightly frowning.
“Fleur said she wanted to greet some familiar people and as for Haruhi, I believe, is managing two idiots,” he said as he straightened himself. He was suddenly conscious of her. Images of cupping her cheeks and her blushing in reaction hit him. He turned his gaze towards the makeshift podium while allowing his head to whirl around with random thoughts.
“Thanks, Bastian. For helping me. With my mom and everything.” she said as he looked at him, wondering why he was slightly indifferent.
“That’s okay. Happy to help,” he replied, glancing her way before continuing to look away.
“My mother wasn’t specifically mad or anything?”
Bastian shrugged. “Your dad balanced it out, I suppose.”
“My dad was there?!” Erska exclaimed. No wonder.
“It turned out okay-”
Two hands from behind propped up in front of Erska from either side, holding cones filled with chocolate ice cream. “Quick. Chocolate chip or dark chocolate?”
“Umm dark chocolate?” Erska answered, unsure because all her brain could process at that moment was how deliciously dripping chocolate looked and how she had yearned for it.
“There you go,” Fyre said, thrusting one cone in her hand, wobbling which took Erska a second or two to stabilize its position in her hands.
She turned around to Fyre, his usual grin plastered on his face which was somewhere between ‘I’m happy’ to ‘I’m not sure what this situation is so let’s keep that smile on.’
Erska’s eyes narrowed. “Someone’s acting friendly alright.”
“Man. I just felt bad about today,” he replied, licking his ice cream. “That’s my treat.”
“Free ice cream? Really, Fyre?” she sneered, cocking her eyebrow.
“How about next time we get whatever you want but the condition is that you finish plotting your book? I got a lot of money,” Fyre said, winking.
“I got money too. Duh..” Erska said, rolling her eyes.
“Oh really? After you got chucked out of the house?”
“Ah..okay. Seems fair. We have a deal,” she said, extending out her hand which Fyre shook with vigour.
“I haven’t covered the dessert side yet and they’ve got a really huge spread of chocolate fondue with different berries, breads, cheeses and stuff. You’ve got to come, Erska!” he rattled with excitement.
“Will definitely do. Let me finish this first,” she said pointing to her ice cream.
“Come soon!” Fyre screamed, all hyped up as he disappeared into the crowd.
“Okay!” she called out, waving back.
“You guys seem to be getting along real well to the point my existence just seemed to vanish for a moment,” Bastian joked, his fingers fiddling with each other while his feet tapped impatiently.
“Umm ice cream?” she offered.
“No. No. I’ll get some myself. So, you guys are getting along well?” he asked.
“Yes. And he’s really good at what he does. Thanks for introducing me.”
“Not a problem. So, what were his ideas?” he asked.
“Sorry, Bastian. That’s a secret.”
He rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “Whatever.”
“Aww, look at you being pissed off like a little baby,” Erska cooed.
“Shut up,” Bastian hissed, holding onto her chin a little too hard so that the cooing would stop.
“Stop harassing, my client,” Fyre groaned, swatting away Bastian’s hand which he pulled back instantly, howling.
“I wasn’t harassing, man. I was playing around,” defended Bastian. Erska stuck out her tongue, making funny faces.
“You’ve got a girlfriend for that. Get going. She wanted me to call you,” Fyre said, waving him off in the direction where Fleur was happily chatting away with a group of people, all eagerly looking in Bastian’s direction.
“Fine,” he grumbled as he walked towards the crowd, putting on a smile instantly while one arm embraced Fleur’s shoulder. He wasn’t really listening for the image of Erska and Fyre snickering was stuck in his head. What on earth could they possibly talk about? It’s been literally two days!