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Chapter 25

“So, basically what I meant was…one second,” Bastian said, sighing as he checked his phone.

“Take your time,” Haruhi replied as she played with the feather teaser, inviting Tamago’s attention. The last few days had been hectic to the point where she had forgotten she had a cat but thankfully Erska was a bit of a support despite Tamago being the diva it was.

“ I was saying..yea, one more second,” he said, checking back his phone while his fingers were engaged in texting furiously.

“Goodness. Who is that?”

“Fleur. I believe her shift at the book store is taking longer than usual because they are preparing for some book signing of some famous author. So, they are doing some changes to the store. Extra help means extra bonus, I suppose. Now that we don’t see each other that often, she wants me to text promptly. Gets grumpy a lot quicker. Today, she’s insisting on having a date despite her shift extending late into the evening. She gets tired quickly and I didn’t want her to do that but she’s all riled up for no reason…”

“A handful. Tamago sounds better to me now,” she said as she patted her cat. “Glad that I’m no longer an active Drapha.”

“Not funny, man. Not funny.”

The door bolted open with a bang, a fully dressed Quincy appeared in ripped black jeans and floral semi formals with his crop of blonde hair pulled back, reddish smoky eyeliner borderlining his Ube like orbs while his signature heart-shaped ruby earring dangled from his left ear. Gold rimmed red shades were inserted in his hair.

“Don’t tell me you went dressed like this to the HQ?” Haruhi snickered.

“Nope but I left the place like the man I am,” he stated as he spread his arms open extravagantly as talk show hosts did.

Bastian went for his ears, twisting it till Quincy howled in pain. “Mister, you and I need to talk,” he said as he dragged him out of Haruhi’s room only to be interrupted by a call.

“Nice timing, Fleur…I’ll be right back, Quincy. If you run away from me, you’d wish you never met me,” threatened Bastian as he walked away.

“Phew! That was close,” exhaled Quincy as he closed the door behind him only to be attacked by Haruhi’s pillows.

“I thought you told him! What the hell, Quincy!” scolded Haruhi.

“I’ll tell him. Definitely. Today,” promised Quincy as he sat on one of the beanbags.

Haruhi seemed to calm down. “How are you now?”

“Fine, I guess,” he said as he scratched his head which he stopped mid-process realizing he had taken efforts to look a little dapper. “Overwhelmed would be a better term to describe how I’m feeling. All this information in one go is kind of too much for me.”

“It gets better. Trust me,” Haruhi reassured, placing her palm on his hand.

“Seriously, I don’t understand how you did it and you’re way younger than me. Did it hurt when you got retired? I heard you were deemed one of the most promising recruits in your batch,” said Quincy.

Haruhi threw her head back, facing the ceiling. “That was nice and all but we’ve got to move on, man. What has happened has happened. If time is short, why make it more miserable than how it already is. I was angry. A lot. I drank and created huge troubles at the HQ. Even after my initiation, I hadn’t chosen any particular posting. Then, forcedly, they assigned me assistant under Francois Pierre, the guy who owned Pierre Wineries here at Lessa. He put my life into order, introduced me to the people around and everything. It felt..weirdly I must use the term ‘home’ for it. He left me the winery to go to spend the rest of his days in Hawaii with some of his other Drapha friends while I built Solitarie in the winery’s place.”

“Wow, that’s something. Don’t you feel weird? I mean, after all, he must have been someone you’d have deeply respected and he left you alone all of a sudden..” Quincy asked cautiously.

“In the beginning, I missed him. A lot. Then, I suppose to forget it I just worked hard on building Solitarie. Whenever I was tired, Mrs. Delaney from Mint&Spice would hop in. Sometimes, I’d go to her place and help her with odd jobs. Acquaintances of Francois were my friends too. All of a sudden I was filled with so much warmth that I could never replace. I’m going to grow old like the cat lady I am,” she said as she planted a kiss on Tamago’s forehead, tickling its stomach. “Life goes on after all.”

“You sound a lot poetic now, really,” Quincy remarked, tilting his head to the right as he listened keenly.

“It doesn’t work on me, son,” sneered, Haruhi flicking him on the forehead.

“Thought I’d just try,” he said, putting his hands up in defence.

“What role are you planning to take on?” she asked.

“I’ve not decided yet but I realize its importance. I want to try being a reporting officer but I’m not sure. What do you think?” pondered Quincy.

“Reporting officer means you might have to work directly under Orfer or whoever the Drapha head is. It basically involves you working with a huge number of active Draphas assigned under you. Assign them the right assignments. You need to keep checking up on them, see if they have resources or not, make suggestions and ensure that the process is smooth and without errors. It’s a desk job, man. Are you sure you’re up for it?” asked Haruhi in a doubtful tone.

“Now that you describe it, it sounds terrible. Goodness, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he moaned, burying his face into his palms.

“You’ll get better at it, man,” reassured Haruhi.

“By the way, Orfer asked me about Bastian. It’s almost like he was being threatening. It scares me weirdly. I hope Bastian is not affected. I think it is important to keep those two apart,” he said, sitting up.

“Quincy. Orfer only seems scary. Leave Bastian to me, I’ll handle him. There’s no need to panic. Besides, there’s no way Bastian and Erska would actually get together. They have different things to focus on. For Bastian, it’s his job and Erska’s got her novel. Before you know, Erska will probably die.”

The door opened and a weary looking Bastian walked in, hands on his hips as he paced in back and forth indecisively.

“Can I do something for the soon-to-be-father?” Haruhi asked.

“Ahhhh. Fleur said she’s coming over here right now and I look like a sweaty dog and I’m tired. I want to sleep, man.”

“Deal with your assignment, man. No pain, no gain,” stated Haruhi.

Fleur strutted in Franklin’s Motel, all decked up. She had chosen to wear an off-shoulder lilac coloured maxi that fell flatteringly on her shoulders, pairing it with geometric dangly earrings while her hair was tied up in a bun in a hurry. Her shift was supposed to extend seven into the night but she had exchanged it with another employee and fled to the motel before she could change Bastian’s mind. Bastian was worried about her, of course. For the past few days, she did nothing but complain to him about being exhausted. He didn’t want her getting more tired by going out on dates. But like Mama always said, if you don’t cling onto him, he’ll fade away soon because he starts forgetting what you taste like.

At the entrance of the motel, she was met with uninvited visitors.

“You guys are also coming with us?” Fleur questioned, surveying them up and down. Erska was wearing a black and white polka-dotted blouse over her ripped white denim, hair loose with an attention grabbing wine colour smeared onto her lips. Fyre had paired up his ripped black jeans with white and teal chevron printed shirt, silver bracelets clumped up on his left hand while yellow tinted shades hung onto his collar.

“Where are you going? It’s almost night now..” Fyre asked, equally taken aback by her presence.

“A date. Well, then, what about you guys all dressed up..”

“Stargazing,” said Erska.

“Woahh. Sounds a lot better than a simple date. Maybe we should join you guys. It would be a double date then. Sounds good, right?” she asked for courtesy’s sake while she popped out her phone, furiously punching numbers onto it.

Erska nudged Fyre’s elbow. “When did we invite her over?” she whispered.

“She invited herself,” he replied, folding his hands. “Bastian better sort this out.”

“I can’t have these two messing up my time. Both are equally annoying,” Erska said.

“We are in common agreement then,” said Fyre as he nodded his head.

Bastian descended the stairs in disbelief followed by Haruhi and Quincy who decided to be part of the spectacle.

“Why aren’t you dressed up yet?” Fleur asked, tapping her heels in impatience.

Bastian started stammering like a child who was caught stealing candy. “Well...I would be tired and-”

“And it would be cancelled? Did you think I was joking on the phone? Do you think I’m a fool to be the only one dressed up, waiting for you,” rattled Fleur.

“You did say your shifts get you tired and I was tired myself-”

“Can we please have this conversation tomorrow? Get ready, Bastian,” insisted Fleur.

While Bastian dragged his soulless body back to his room, Haruhi and Quincy came down as they looked at the unusual trio.

“Where are you guys going? It’s getting late,” Quincy asked Erska.

Erska shrugged, her form all slouched. “Stargazing….apparently, Bastian and Fleur are joining us too..”

“Aren’t you guys going on a date?” Haruhi asked Fleur.

“Something different for a change would be nice, I believe,” she replied.

“Done with your fishing trip, Quincy?” Erska asked.

“It went alright. Thanks for your concern, Miss Saphine.”

Erska gestured an ‘okay’ sign. “If both of you are free, why don’t you join us too?”

Fyre turned his head in slow motion towards Erska, staring at her wide-eyed while mouthing, “Why are we inviting more people?!”

“It’s a lot better than having just those two idiots around,” Erska whispered back.

“Looks like someone doesn’t want us around,” Quincy joked as he put his arm around Fyre’s shoulder.

“Not exactly,” Fyre grinned instantly, wriggling his way out of Quincy’s hold on him in vain.

“Well, if no one has a problem, what do you say Haruhi?” Quincy asked.

“Fine by me but if we all are going to go, we’d have to decide on the transportation. What were you guys planning on doing?” she asked Fyre and Erska.

“I think a taxi would be fine..” Erska said.

“We’ll rent a car instead. I’ll do that as soon as Bastian comes down…which he is so, I’ll give a call now,” said Haruhi as she glanced at the stairs from which Bastian walked down, pulling himself with all the energy he had.

“You guys are looking tip-top today. Your styling looks effortless,” complimented Fleur as she looked at Fyre and Quincy.

“I know right. We’d make a cute couple, right?” said Quincy, trying to form a heart with his hand while an annoyed looking Fyre left it incomplete.

“Since when were you guys so close?” Bastian asked as he looked back and forth at Quincy and Fyre.

“He’s a good one to tease. Like you,” Quincy replied while loosening his hold on Fyre, making a mess of his hair while Fyre instantly distanced himself from Quincy.

“Like me? More like you forgot me. You keep going on weird trips and you don’t talk to me anymore. It’s like I’m still searching for my friend Quincy behind this act,” stated Bastian dramatically to which Quincy tried to hug Bastian which was instantly denied.

“Aww, don’t be like this, babe,” Quincy pouted, still trying to hug Bastian.

“I have to say. I appreciate you for the amount of effort that has gotten into your clothing today,” commented Fleur with a tone of sarcasm as she dusted Bastian’s shoulders after giving a hard look at his matching grey hood and cargo shorts.

“I’ll do better next time, baby,” managed Bastian weakly, slightly pinching her chin. “By the way, we’ll have to go somewhere nearby today. I know this great burger joint-”

“We’re going stargazing today,” interrupted Fleur before he could finish.

“Stargazing? No way. That’s going to be hard. Haruhi asked me to help her with something..”

“All of us are going stargazing. What are you going to do in a closed shop with no one?” Fleur nagged, tilting her head to the right.

“All of us?! Do y’all have no work!! Just because someone wants to get rewarded for getting done their plot…” scolded Bastian, looking at others but specifically, Erska.

“No one invited you guys! Fleur wanted to come!” shot back Erska.

“For which I’m grateful, Miss Saphine,” replied Fleur before turning to Bastian, pinching his arm with the ends of her sharp nails. “ I did not have to dress up this good to go to a burger joint. We are going stargazing and that’s final.”

Bastian staggered back, smiling, while he rubbed his arm. He turned the opposite side away from others’ view and bit his lips to control pain while he held onto the sore area.

“Guys, the rental car is here,” Haruhi said, ushering them out.

Quincy lagged behind, gesturing Bastian to stay back while the rest gathered out.

“Are you alright? Fleur’s fiery, huh?” Quincy asked, taking a look at Bastian’s arm.

“Yea. That’s fine, man,” Bastian said, shrugging his hands off.

“Listen...I have to tell you something…” Quincy dragged, his head facing the ground while his fingers fidgeted so much a thin layer of sweat began forming.

“What? You’ve finally gotten into a serious relationship or something? Is that why you’re acting like some shy girl,” Bastian asked, carefully looking at Quincy.

“I’ve retired. I’m no longer an active Drapha, Bastian.”

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