“What are you going to do? Punch me?” sneered Fyre, allowing himself to be treated like a rag doll. Fyre was having fun teasing now that he understood that Quincy was all talk.
“Shut up,” Quincy hissed, still pulling him by the collar as he marched upstairs the motel, unbothered by the fact that could be possibly causing Fyre pain.
“Right. Like I’d actually listen to you,” he sighed like an impish child while Quincy’s impatience got the best of him as he kicked open the door to Fyre’s room, shoving him against the wall. Fyre’s smirk was replaced with dilated pupils and pursed lips, slowly registering how viciously hungry Quincy looked. Without a warning, Quincy forced his lips on Fyre, licking it as Quincy slowly teased him into locking lips with him. Fyre stood shell shocked, fingers trembling to hold onto Quincy’s torso while Quincy himself had no problem embracing Fyre. But the shock lasted barely seconds, giving into Quincy, giving into the touch he was craving for most, giving his everything without much thought. There was no time to think and for Fyre at that moment, it felt perfect. As their lips parted, they faced each other, foreheads together as they took deep breaths. Fyre’s hands reached to feel Quincy’s cheeks, trying to tell himself that it wasn’t a dream and that the warm, fuzzy feeling in his heart wasn’t a lie.
That’s it. It would have been just fine that way. For that moment but then, Quincy whispered into his ears saying, “How long have you been starving? Don’t forget to call me next time. It was fun.” And Quincy’s arms drooped down, releasing him from a warm embrace that was being faked while Fyre’s hands were forced to let go of his hold on Quincy who had left the room, banging the door on his way out to which Fyre flinched as he crouched down, hugging his knees. The fuzziness in his heart vanished like Quincy’s descending footsteps. Instead, a shot of pain passed through him, desperately trying to clasp onto the few moments of ecstasy, drugging him into a fantasy where he was happy yet streaks of tears could no longer take the sorrow that he was trying to disguise.
“Erska, you’re on your seventh chocolate bar already. You’re not eating real food,” Haruhi nagged, trying to take away the half bitten bar from Erska’s hands. If the first half of the day was spent by her being a depressing slug, the second half was Erska being a chocolate glutton. The only physical activity she had allowed herself was to painstakingly push her body to hit the nearest store to suffice her chocolate craving.
Erska pouted, holding onto the chocolate bar a little too hard so that her hands were smeared with the sticky brown texture of the sweet treat. All she had to do was apply that a little bit on the face and voila – a spoiled child in the making.
“You’ve been doing nothing but stare at the walls and eat chocolate! This is not a good way to go about daily. If this continues tomorrow, you are going to get some serious whooping, young lady!” scolded Haruhi, forcefully pulling away the bar so hard that she staggered back.
“I don’t want to do anything right now. Just give me back the bar..” she faintly mumbled, slowly getting up as her hands reached for it.
“Erska, seriously,” Haruhi said, pushing her down onto a chair. “This is not going to help you. This is just a temporary fall back. Get your ass up and do something about your book. Did you forget your intentions, Erska? Do I have to remind you the stakes piled up on you?”
“Wow. Kinda rude,” Erska muttered, slumping. “You’re right. I seem to have forgotten why I came here and why I am doing all this. Things like this always happen, Mother might have been speaking the truth after all. I can’t do anything without her help. I thought my only hurdle was me being unable to complete the book, like if I could do that then I thought I would have freedom over all aspects. But no. Here I am with a completed book, no publisher ready to take the risk to help me out because it doesn’t have any bloody audience! And I’m going to lose my fanbase! Most of all, the fact that cutthroat editing of my first was the reason for my success and not because it was written by me! Because I had no control over that first book!”
“You believe in your book, right?” Haruhi asked.
“I do but it seems only I believe in it. And all those articles on the internet and newspapers that hailed me are going to break me down like into pieces. Well, maybe I’m not bothered about criticism but..but…I don’t know, Haruhi. I can’t really think right now,” she said as she fell flat onto the counter. “Leave me alone for a while.”
“You’ll be back on your feet, kiddo,” said, Haruhi, patting Erska on the shoulder.
“I hope so too..” Erska replied back, snuggling into her arms.
“Haruhi!” screamed Bastian in a high pitched tone as he rushed in carrying a wooden box, carefully placing it on the counter. “I’ll-I’ll be back. Forgot to take my kit. Careful, okay?”
Erska’s head popped up, annoyed so much that she wanted to kick Bastian but the forlorn box attracted her attention. She pulled the box towards her. Despite being covered in wood, The top was transparent and the contents of the box were even more curious looking. On what looked like soft violet velvet, were two decorative hair pins, one bearing a shape of a swan made out of gold strings. And the other bearing a flat disc of gold from which strokes radiated from all sides, representing the sun.
“Do you know what’s this, Haruhi?” enquired Erska, as she traced the outline of the ornaments on the transparent cover, not sure whether she could touch it.
After a glimpse, she said, “Aaah..that box. Well, apparently, Bastian was able to get in touch with the owner of those hairpins. By the looks of it, those are antiques, of course – gets him giddy. He was saying something about adding one more to this collection..”
“Ohhh..can I touch it?” Erska asked though she was unsure why she did that.
“Considering how excited he is, I’m quite afraid we are going to see his hysterical side. So, just as a precaution, let’s not do anything to his precious hobby without his permission,” suggested Haruhi, noticing Erska’s lit up face for the first time in like almost thirty hours.
“Why don’t you go along with him? You seem to be interested in those hair pins,” nudged Haruhi gently.
“ I..I don’t know..” Erska muttered. “I’m not exactly in a good relationship with him.”
“Just make it professional then. You don’t have to be all playful and friendly with Bastian. Besides, hasn’t this got you interested?” asked Haruhi, patting the box. “Get to know the history and stuff. That’s what I think Bastian is going to do. It’ll be a nice change for you. Come on. Do you really want to keep feeling miserable? Do you want to go low for weeks and weeks?”
“Hmmm…” she said, wondering if it was going to be worth it. “Okay, I’ll go.” Erska got up in a jiffy, her brain jiggling new prospects.
“I’ll be back, Haruhi. Just don’t call me for a while,” Bastian rattled as he hurried in, picking up the box along with his kit, rushing out to Erska’s dismay who was rather slow, presently, to his hyper tendencies.
“Umm Bastian?!” called out Haruhi which got him to stop in his tracks as he turned back in question. “Take Erska with you, will you? She’s interested in the contents of that box too.”
“That’s fine by me..if Erska is comfortable in my presence which I’m not so sure about…” he stated as he looked at Erska awkwardly.
“I don’t really care,” Erska replied, stepping towards the entrance of the motel. “Let’s just go.”
“Okay then,” said Bastian to himself as he followed her out only to collide with her. “Sorry,” he said.
“No. I just stopped because I thought it would be better if you lead the way. I don’t really know where we are going anyway,” she said, shrugging as she looked down.
“Ahh..we’re just going to Mint&Spice,” he said with a slight laugh. They soon fell silent, their only companions being the street they were walking in. Erska, looking around, eyed the box Bastian was carrying for a little too long that Bastian caught her stare. She instantly looked away into the sky pretending to birdwatch when the expanse of endless blue had no visitor in its abode.
“You want to know what this is?” he prodded her, pointing towards the box.
“Yea..sure…” she replied back.
“It seems that these hairpins belong to sisters, blood siblings of the same family. Apparently, some descendants of these sisters live in Lessa. I got to know that through a tourist brochure, you know we’ve got lots at the front of the motel,” he summed up as he pushed through Mint&Spice’s door. “I’ll explain it better when I get the time.”
Inside Mint&Spice, Bastian was able to find the person whom he was looking for because it was just early evening. What surprised him was how young the owner looked, her mocha brown hair showed no signs of greying while her face had yellow undertones underneath the duskiness. She stood up as soon as she saw Bastian and Erska approaching.
“Hope you don’t mind that I started on my coffee early,” she said, extending her hand. “My name is Gill Fairworth.”
“My name’s Bastian and this is my…” he dragged a little as he looked at Erska. “My friend, Erska.”
“A pleasure to meet you both,” she said as she shook her hands with Erska also. “Something to munch or drink?” she asked as they sat down.
“Yea, I’ll order,” offered Bastian as he turned back. “Mrs. Delaney, get us two hot chocolates, will you?”
“Bastian, I’ve been eating too much chocolate,” Erska protested, proceeding to cancel her order.
“That’s okay. Just one more won’t kill you,” he whispered before turning to Gill, looking brighter than ever when he placed the box on the table.
Gill set her cup aside, pulling the box carefully towards the centre. She opened it slowly, picking the swan shaped pin and turned it. “It’s the original,” she gasped in wonder as she eyed the signature. Erska leaned forward to get a glimpse because she hadn’t yet gotten a sight of it. All Erska could make out was a very fancy, swirly way of writing ‘Margaret.’ Then, she picked up sun shaped one to check the presence of the signature. She set the pins back onto violet velvet and looked at Bastian. “So, would you mind telling me how you got hold of these?”
“I travel a lot. So, first I found the swan one by chance at a thrift shop in Canada. For some reason, I was drawn to it. You see I collect a lot like old things. That’s why. As for the sun shaped one, it was a gift sent to me by a friend. She said she got it from a shop in Southern India. Only when it struck me that the signatures were similar did I know that it was made by the same artist. At Lessa, I’m staying at this motel where I found a brochure about Fairworth Manor which offered services equivalent to that of a homestay with its features explained. When I looked into the gallery section, I was surprised to find a portrait of three sisters, two of them wearing the pins I had with me! And then, I contacted and here we are…” explained Bastian, almost breathless.
“Canada and Southern India..? Southern India makes sense but Canada, I think it must have been in America and quickly found its way to Canada..” muttered Gill to herself.
“Do you mind explaining the story behind these? And do you have the third pin? Sorry, I’m just really excited,” he quickly stated, his feet tapping in excitement.
“Sure, so the pins were made by Margaret Addington who is basically my great- great-great-great grandmother. She was of English origin. And the three sisters on the portrait were her daughters Emma, Beatrice and Grace. Margaret was an iron lady, a single woman of the high society who was abandoned by her husband. Nevertheless, she raised her daughters in her own way, with no care for societal norms and they all grew up to be strong women themselves. The pins are supposed to represent her daughters. The swan belonged to Emma, the oldest, who was said to be as graceful as swan. She was an amazing dancer and had quite a few famous suitors pursuing her. She turned them all down. Rather she was fascinated by an American dance troupe so much that she begged her mother to let her go. As much as Margaret was saddened by her departure, she knew holding her back was going to do nothing for anyone. The sun was supposed to represent Beatrice whose smile radiated everywhere she entered, bringing cheer and joy. She was a nurse when the troops began entering then British India. There, she fell for a local man and stayed there for the rest of her life. The last one belonged to the youngest sister, Grace,” Gill said as she slowly revealed from a brown pouch, an unconventional arrow shaped pin. “She was an archer in a man’s field. And she found her equal in Harold Fairworth, my great-great-great grandfather. She persuaded her mother who was alone despite her insisting to stay back in England but eventually fell for her daughter’s coaxing. Margaret Addington lived the rest of her days at Fairworth Manor, sending letters back and forth in the case of Emma and Beatrice. That’s the story.”
“That was some huge explanation. Thank you,” said Bastian as both Erska and himself looked closely at the arrow shaped pin.
“So much history in these little pins, like the three sisters back together,” murmured Erska.
“Yea..” agreed Bastian.
“I know I’m asking too much..” Gill dragged. “But I’d like to take back those pins to where they belong.”
Bastian was caught off guard. “Excuse me?”
Seeing his worried expression, she quickly flipped opened her cheque book. “Of course, I’m not asking it for free. You’ll be compensated very well, Bastian.”
“I-I…” He looked at the pins and then at an eager looking Gill. “ I don’t know what to say. I’ve been caring for this like a baby. It means a lot to me..”
“This could possibly be one of the most valuable heirloom left to me and the last one. It was Grace’s dying wish. After you contacted me, I was absolutely rejoiced by the fact that it was on me to do it. Please think over it. It would mean a lot to me.”
Bastian’s form slumped, licking his lips. He placed his hands over the box, almost in a possessive manner. The thought of parting with it made him blank for a while. Erska looked unsure of what she should be doing, there was definitely a dilemma running through Bastian’s head.
He suddenly got up, saying, “I need to think for a while….” He went out of Mint&Spice and began pacing back and forth, rubbing his palms together doubtfully.
Erska and Gill looked at each other, awkwardly smiling. “It’s just he collects and takes care of them. It’s kinda like his precious thing…” said Erska, trying to make conversation.
“I understand that. It’s a hard decision for anyone who holds onto something precious. I can see that he is a man who really treasures it. No doubt of that,” agreed Gill. “But this is important to me and my family.”
Erska couldn’t concur. All she did was nod her head as she looked at Bastian who seemed to have made up his mind, slowly walking in. Gill looked at him with anticipation.
“Well, it seems I have to part ways with it,” he said, carefully picking the arrow shaped pin and placing it along with the rest in the box. “They belong as a trio at a home where they must rest.” He pushed the box towards Gill, sighing.
Gill almost forcefully grabbed his hands and shook it. “Thank you. Thank you so much. It means a lot. The Fairworth Manor will always open its doors to you.” She picked out the cheque book only for Bastian to protest.
“No. No. I don’t want money,” he said, waving hurriedly. “That’s not something I would do. Please, just take it.”
“Really, thank you,” repeated Gill as she looked at the box.
Bastian stared at the pins like a mother sending off her child as they left the nest, his form slouched. Erska patted him on the back. “You did the right thing,” she whispered.
“I know that. Sometimes, I wish I was a villain,” he uttered back.
“Really? Because-” she began which got Bastian’s eyes all narrowed. “That’s something we’ll talk next time.”
Twenty minutes later, they left Mint&Spice. Gill was also a collector like Bastian. So as they spent the conversation, battling with their brains, all Erska could do was stare in amazement at the amount of information spilling.
“You alright now?” Erska asked as they walked towards Solitarie.
“I just try to forget it. The more I linger, it is not really doing me any good,” he stated.
“Does Quincy ever get bored when you go hunting for antiques?”
“Not exactly. His eyes follow the girls..so..we both got our own hobbies,” Bastian explained as they laughed at the difference. “How are you doing? You’ve been just chugging in chocolate left and right.”
She was ready to defend herself. “I did not want to drink back at the café. You insisted-”
“That was not what I was talking about…” he said. “I know I insisted on that.”
“Good,” Erska said as they entered the motel. “Because I already had enough of Haruhi nagging me-”
“I’m sorry, I nagged you?” Haruhi questioned, frowning. “You were being childish,” she said as she was holding a mustard, almost gold coloured satin cami dress that probably ran till it touched the floor if not for its coy opening at one edge, allowing the user to show off their right leg.
“Woah!” exclaimed Erska, rushing towards the reception, as her fingers touched the material. Bastian who was looking from behind commented, “Whoever is going to wear it, is going to be a treat for the eyes.” Erska turned towards him with a glare, he flinched back.
“This is so beautiful, Haruhi. You’ll look so good in this,” Erska continued, taking the dress in her hands.
“I know, right? Too bad it belongs to you,” she mumbled.