“Guys! I have got great news!” announced Erska, skipping in.
“You found a publisher?!” asked Haruhi, almost running up to her with her arms extended.
“Umm no,” she mumbled, momentarily having forgotten her woes.
Haruhi’s arms drooped yet her smile retained. “So, what’s the news you’ve got?”
“As you know I had a meet up with my friends and everything…they were like we gotta celebrate, girl! I mean I just realized I reached a milestone and I’m charging towards my next one already,” stated Erska with her hands on her hip as if she was on a mission. “So, we are going to celebrate it!” her voice thundered, waking up Quincy.
“Guys,” he whispered. “Keep it down.”
“Oh sorry….anyways. That’s the thing..” Erska said, staring a little too hard at Quincy’s depressed self.
“What’s the plan then?” Haruhi enquired, getting down to business.
“My friends were like let’s book an estate but I told them we go Cafakla style. Huh? What do you say to that, Haruhi?” asked Erska, slowly bobbing her head.
“Cafakla? What exactly do you want to do here?” she asked, unable to comprehend.
“Remember we had this ice breaking thing at Deliah Park? Doesn’t that sound cool?” I want them to experience Cafakla. It’s obviously a lot different from what we usually do. So, if you just tell me what to do, I’ll start plotting out a plan..”
“Are you actually talking about booking the entire park or something of that sort?” she asked, slightly terrified.
“Yea. Why not?” Erska asked, oblivious.
“No, what I mean is do you have a guest list? Most likely to attend, stuff like that? Any idea? Because we are going to book an entire park, Erska,” said Haruhi, stating the obvious.
Erska nodded her head. “Yes, the entire park. Obviously, the usual crowd I’m involved with - my friends, my…..” Her voice trailed off as she was engaged in a battle with her thoughts, staring away into the ceiling.
“Maybe you do need to rethink the list, considering the number of people...Are you sure about it?” repeated Haruhi.
“Actually, Haruhi. Now that I think, isn’t it going to be awkward? I mean I’ve left a whole group of people behind, it’s like I have cut them off but now, I going to invite them here? After all, apart from my friends, most of them were simply acquaintances of my parents. I-I have not much to invite after all.” Erska’s shoulders drooped. “How can I call my mom after the way I treated her. She must have felt humiliating!”
“Erska, that is your mom after all,” Haruhi said, placing her hand on Erska’s shoulder.
“No, I don’t think I want to celebrate any longer…all this feels like..it feels very overwhelming all of a sudden and-and confusing…for no reason…” talked Erska to herself, her arms folded as she hugged her body. “I’ll let you know what I decide to do but celebrating is off for sure. I better start looking into other publishers. That’s the right thing to do. How is celebrating going to help me now?” Saying that she slowly turned and trudged, seeming a lot sadder than before.
“Not bad, Vidya. You were right to predict today would be the day,” Vidya muttered to herself as she perused the menu for dinner which was always posted just outside the Waiting Room. When there was mochi ice cream for dessert, the kitchen was bound to run out of food a lot faster than usual. It was always each for their own when it came to food. As she peeked inside, she was able to find a considerable number of people who had come in early to reserve their seats – probably like her, they had also found the pattern of the menus and the way in which it was decided. Either that or they could have bribed the chefs.
“Guys, look here. If it isn’t Vidya who is currently Orfer’s pet..” snickered Eric, the infamous jerk with pinkish freckled face and a mop of brown curls with a will of its own, as he was to pass by her, calling attention to the people present at Waiting Room whose eyes fell on Vidya.
“That’s getting old, Eric. Does your brain not think of any new jokes?” she shot back, unimpressed but by the reaction of the onlookers, they seemed to be more interested in Vidya’s disposition who had become a hot topic amongst them.
“No matter what you do, it’s going to take a while for you to..get relevant,” he said, his hands in his pocket as he left her to go in. Vidya rolled her eyes, sighing. The only problem was she had done that too soon. Just when everything could possibly calm down, an overexcited man came rushing towards them and stood rooted in front of Vidya. It took some time for his breathing to lower its pace as he huffed and puffed, holding his knees. Anyone who was that excited to work was either under punishment or a rookie. The latter was obvious.
She blinked nonchalantly. “Yes?”
“Do you perhaps handle Bastian?” he asked, looking up as he stretched his back.
“Yes. Is there something wrong?” she asked with caution. Have I missed something? No way. I was pretty careful concerning surveillance. I missed so many hours of sleep. If one more thing were to go wrong….
“Actually...Oh, wait. I’m sorry. I’m Farooq from administration,” he said pointing to his Draphacon. “I was supposed to inform you that a few days ago, maybe a week back I think..it seems that Haruhi, the stationed Drapha of Lessa ordered a trace delete under Bastian’s name. It passed onto us from the surveillance team only yesterday and was set aside as soon as the name Bastian popped up as per Orfer’s orders. That’s why I was sent to pass this over to you as soon as possible.”
Vidya frowned. “A trace delete, you say?”
“Yes, details regarding that are sent to your Draphacon.”
She pulled out her Draphacon and clicked on the last sent message from the Drapha Administration. As she quickly scrolled through the lengthy report of articles, she stopped to zoom at the image, blinking twice to see if she had captured it right in its hazy form. It undoubtedly resembled Bastian’s build while the one he was pulling looked a lot closer to Erska. “Erska..? What is happening….” Then, her eyes trailed off to the headline of a particular caption which read ‘The adventure of a disgraced novelist and her new lover begins today!’ What the fuck is going on?
Just as Farooq was about to leave, she said, “Can you please pass over this message to the surveillance team? Anything that happens with Lessa, Bastian or Haruhi, even the slightest thing – I’d like to be contacted immediately. You will get Orfer’s approval soon.”
“Okay. Yea. That sounds fine. Thank you for contacting me, Miss Singh,” whispered Haruhi, clicking off her phone. Despite being immersed in the conversation, she was more worried about a very sorry looking Erska. Haruhi thought assigning some work at Solitarie would take her mind off but it wasn’t doing her any good. For the past ten minutes, she was staring at the same stud. Neither were the obvious glances of Bastian, Fyre or Quincy present at the store got her attention nor was Haruhi able to help her since she had been booked almost the entire day with customers flocking in and out. She took away the stud from Erska’s hand and placed her hand on Erska’s shoulders. “Take some rest. Sleep. Do something.”
“But…” Erska protested weakly. “I can do something,” she replied, raising her hand towards the stud that Haruhi was holding.
“No. Take rest,” repeated Haruhi, with a firm grip on her shoulder and Erska did not resist it this time. She simply nodded her head and slowly paced out of the shop, headed towards the motel.
Haruhi walked back to serving her customer, placing a tray of pendants before her. Fyre leaned against the counter as he watched Erska go. “Something wrong with her? I’ve never seen her act like this..”
Yea, well. You better start looking after her apart from indulging in your drama,” she implied as she glanced at Quincy whose condition seemed a lot better than before. “A lot of publishers have been rejecting her because they deemed her book too different. I’m sure that must have pulled her down a little bit…”
“A little bit, you say?! Considering Erska, she must have been heartbroken, I’m sure,” interjected Bastian with his all-knowing power.
“Shut up, man,” she shot rather fiercely to her customer’s dismay. “You don’t know half of what happened..”
“Ignore him. Do continue..” said Fyre, waving off Bastian.
“She got to meet with her friends, her childhood friends, the gang, you know? So, after getting together with them, it seems like they wanted to celebrate her finishing the book as a milestone and it also got Erska all excited. I didn’t really care because she seemed enthusiastic, she wanted to show her friends Cafakla, book Deliah Park..that’s where it went wrong..”
“Why?” asked Fyre impatiently.
“Usually, I believe the parties that she or that her mother held would comprise mostly of her parent’s acquaintances. Now, that she has temporarily broken away from that community of sorts, she feels it weird to invite them, her mom. She has only got her friends,” explained Haruhi.
“So, she could just invite her friends and get it over with, right?” enquired Fyre, still not sure where it was heading.
“I think she is at crossroads, kind of. She’s comparing her past and present experiences. It’s new. Plus, this arrangement of living with us is not permanent, she has to go back. I think she hasn’t thought of that.”
Fyre nodded. “That makes sense. After all, she had only thought so much about her novel that she didn’t have to think about the future and shit. Some confusion, alright..”
“So, she told her friends that she was going to cancel the party thing and concentrate on her novel. They were quick to get in touch with me and make preparations. So, we’ll be throwing a surprise for her I suppose…”
“Wow,” Fyre said, genuinely surprised. “She’s got good friends. They still support her despite everything. That’s nice to hear.”
Haruhi continued, “Yea, that’s all nice and fine but you need to find ways to push her, Fyre. I think the publisher thing might have added to her woe,” she suggested.
“I think I can find my way around her,” he said as he looked at Quincy who was engrossed in reading a magazine, so, Fyre raised his voice all of a sudden. “It’s just someone else I can’t find my way around. Absolutely uncooperative to the point where they eat their own words. See Haruhi? This is what happens when you try to show off!”
“You guys deal with your own drama. I won’t involve myself,” she stated as she looked at Quincy who was slightly peeking from his magazine and went back to his former position.
“Fyre, that’s some nice job of harassing of Quincy..” commented Bastian which got Quincy riled up as he turned towards him, his nose crinkling.
“I was actually surprised. I thought he was being all serious and stuff. I can’t believe that he’s a coward though..” responded Fyre.
“I know, right? He’s all chatter but he doesn’t do anything..” added Bastian, mimicking Quincy.
“Then he shouldn’t have spoken carelessly, yeah?” Fyre said as he walked towards Quincy, interrupting his pretentious reading time. “What a kid. Your stupid pride might have brought out your true colours for once,” he said as took the magazine rashly and skipped through the pages.
“That’s it!” yelled Quincy as he grabbed Fyre by the collar, leading him out of Solitarie.
“Are those two going to be fine?” Bastian asked in a worried tone as he watched the disgruntled pair go.
“Don’t bother. They’ll sort it out themselves,” she said as she fished for her vibrating Draphacon out of the pocket. “Bastian, look after the customer, will you?” He nodded in acknowledgement while she picked up the call.
“Hello, Haruhi speaking.”
“I’m not sure if we’ve introduced ourselves but I’m Vidya, Bastian’s reporting officer.”
“How can I help you, Vidya? I’m quite surprised you’ve called me directly. Should I pass something to Bastian?”
“Nope. I’ve just called to re-check over something,” Vidya explained. “I got to know recently that you ordered a trace delete.”
“Yes…but that’s allowed. I’m not in some trouble, am I?” Haruhi asked with an ill attempt at humour that no one cared for.
“No. No. I would like to know the nature of the trace delete. It seems to be some kind of rumoured relationship between Bastian and his former assignment. It doesn’t look good and the fact it has made to the internet signals some red flags. I’ll ask it out – should I be concerned?” Vidya enquired, choosing her words carefully.
“Concerned? God, no. The girl was unfortunately thrown under the spotlight and he protected her while the internet did what it did best – make silly rumours. I got to assure you that he is very responsible,” ensured Haruhi.
“I’ll take your word for that. Thank you for co-operating. If anything similar happens, I am to be told of that. Also, do not let Bastian know that we had this conversation.”
“I understand,” Haruhi replied, scratching her neck as she clicked off her Draphacon. So, Quincy was right. Why did a reporting officer bother if I did a trace delete or not? Ahhh..why are they watching closely for no reason...