The hovering figure of her mother, scrunched nose flaring with folded hands that complimented her look of disapproval seemed too true to be real yet the sight of the artificial flower hangings that dropped from the ceiling of her room was the factor that brought Erska back to a sober state. She sat up, staring at the white monochrome wall.
“Are you awake yet, dearie?” her mother asked. Her voice ringed in Erksa’s ears, a tune so sweet and sharp.
“Err..yes…” Erska replied, rubbing her eyes, “What time is it?”
“Great! I’ll have enough time to prepare for today’s writing session and meet with the girls in the afternoon. And..can you let Nate know I’ll be dropping by the evening? Giving myself some time for my own writing…” she said, proceeding to move her body towards the edge of the bed with all her strength, clutching her forehead. The sleep wasn’t making her feel better at all.
“It’s 7:30 pm, Erska..”
“7:30 pm….7:30 pm?! Why didn’t you wake me up in the morning?? You’d so enjoy pouring a tub of ice cubes over me..so, what went wrong today?”
Alice sat down next to her. “Don’t you remember what happened yesterday?”
“Yesterday….well, there was a writing session which was beautifully interrupted by you throwing a party. Amid this mindless chaos, you introduced me to a friend’s daughter…did I miss anything?” she asked.
“You forgot the part where you bashed Meg…”
“Bashed her? It was none of her business to come to a writing session if she hasn’t the least interest!”
“There is nothing wrong in getting to know something new..she seemed like a very sweet girl!” her mother argued.
“Oh please, mother! I know the difference! And I’m sure you wanted to throw that party not for the writers but for Meg to show off to your circle!!”
Her mother’s monotone face turned nasty. “Which you have perfectly ruined, dear. Thank you. I’m sure any mother in this world would be happy to have you for a daughter,” she said as she got up to go.
Erska sat still, clenched fists with her face fuming. Her mother stopped mid-way and turned, “You also forgot the part where you got drunk and let the boy Bastian drive you home..”
“Bastian? I drove myself home!!” Erska exclaimed.
“Better start working on that black-out..you might have embarrassed yourself a lot more than anyone yesterday..” her mother shot back cheaply.
As she watched the door close, Erska tried to recollect the bits and pieces of her memory but all the hazy scenarios were abstract neon pink and green lights, a bucket of drinks, shots that she drank, Meg’s haughty face…and some dude that she kissed…Bastian slapping someone…faking…
Something about faking, faking, a fake writer…Bastian!
Bastian’s perplexed face instantly appeared to her mind. “That changes a lot of things regarding him..if he actually did bring me home….” she muttered to herself.
Faint pain in her head spread itself as she kept trying harder to reminisce. All that was left to do was to let her head immerse in ice-cold water to knock the faded scenes in her brain to life in case they held her hostage from her mother.
“That sounds bad. Now, what are you going to do?” Haruhi asked, peeling the outer layer of the pea and setting it in a vessel.
Bastian joined to help her. Haruhi had closed shop for the day and wanted to help Mrs. Delaney, owner of the nearby café Mint&Spice who was short of help just when the dinner rush commenced.
“ Research a bit more about writing and keep up the ruse somehow? I have no idea…”
“Are the tricks in your magic pouch finding its end?” she asked sarcastically.
“Don’t remind me. I feel like I’m ranting about the change in patterns of my assignment but most importantly, it doesn’t matter if I was very successful previously…this assignment presently shows that I’m nothing but an airheaded charmer…I feel like a bloody fool now…I really have a low sense of judgement. Like I can’t exactly predict what she might do…” Bastian sighed heavily.
“Maybe one of the things you should do is to stop whining. You’ve been saying the same thing over and again. I understand that your assignment seems a lot tougher to crack but challenge it, go till the end. You did try your best, that’s true but see it from a different angle or something..” she reasoned.
“Okayy…then, my approach must change…I’ll try to figure out something..”
“Another suggestion: why don’t you ask for like a revision? I’m sure you can apply for revising your assignments which means there is a possibility of getting yourself re-assigned….” Haruhi suggested.
“Really?! I never knew we could get ourselves re-assigned! How do you know about it?”
“I think you guys don’t care much for the rules with every assignment thrown your way, being a stationed Drapha, we pay more attention towards it,” she explained.
“Ohh..and do tell me this, why are you stationed? You seem too young..” he asked.
Haruhi stared for seconds before replying. “Oh uh...umm, I’m not exactly comfortable talking about it..”
“Sorry..it just seemed weird..” Bastian said.
“It’s nothing really…I didn’t really like doing active duty. I preferred a slow life, chilling. The reason I avoid this question is because so many keep asking me the same thing, kind of in a mocking tone…that’s it..” she said, drumming her fingers against the table.
“Alright….I’ll probably send it for revision as well as work on changing my approaches a bit..” Bastian replied quickly to wade off the awkwardness.
Loud banging from the storeroom startled the two occupants. Haruhi stood up, looking at Bastian in a confused manner. It took some time for him to realize what was happening as Haruhi rushed towards the storeroom. Bastian followed her.
Dust spewed out, creating as a figure walked out, flapping the hands like a makeshift fan. “Great! Didn’t know I’d be welcomed by a dump..”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Bastian stated, astounded.
“Bastian!! You’ve let me go waste for far too long!!” screamed Quincy, throwing himself on Bastian, setting down his retro briefcase.
“A hard one to handle, alright..” Haruhi commented as she closed the doors of the storeroom.
“That is not the way to welcome any Drapha!!” he exclaimed, walking into Solitaire’s showroom. Entranced, he said, “Well, I’m not complaining now..”
“What are you doing here, Quincy? Don’t tell me you got assigned-”
“Exactly. I got assigned to Lessa after literally lying dead before Orfer’s room. He got pissed off, revoked the ban and finally, I got shipped to Lessa!”
“Ban revoked? What exactly did you do?” Bastian asked, horrified.
“Well, you don’t have to look like you’ve seen a ghost…you should know my persuasion skills are elite…” he answered.
Haruhi clicked off her Draphacon. “Nice story unlike what they tell me at HQ…seems you were fooling around at the Grim reaper HQ…”
“Ehhh..uh..she’s thorough, isn’t she?” Quincy managed.
Bastian narrowed his eyes while Quincy grinned sheepishly. “C’mon, babe…minor casualties are excused, huh?” Quincy dragged, hugging him.
The bowl of peas plonked and rolled on the floor. Bastian looked up to see Thomas, Mrs. Delaney’s son petrified as he stuttered, “I-I came to check on how are you on the process…”
“Just a few more to go but you just spoiled the process, Thomas”, Haruhi scolded.
“We-Well sorry, I’ll do it,” he said as he crouched down to pick up the peas yet he was still looking back and forth at Bastian and Quincy.
As he finished the task, “You know, Bastian..umm sir…I finally am content that I know you are safe around Haruhi….it’s okay not to be secretive..” he said pointing towards Quincy and Bastian.
“What do you mean-…Oh! Oh!! No, no it is not like that..we aren’t a couple, okay? ” Bastian began to explain. Thomas ran away. “Eff you, Quincy.”
“Tell me your plan again?” Quincy asked, licking his litchi popsicle.
“Apologize....most probably..” Bastian said, lingering outside Bon Voyage, wanting to catch a glimpse of Erska.
“Apologize? Yo. That’s not how we do things. We draw out the woman on her own…” Quincy said, waving the popsicle.
“Usually. But not now and shut up for once. I’m doing things different now…” he said, swatting Quincy on the mouth.
“Has your chick, by any chance, got a very hot tan and short violety-purply hair?” Quincy asked
“Sounds about right. Why do you ask?” Bastian questioned as he shifted his gaze from Bon Voyage’s entrance towards Quincy’s eye line.
“What did you do to piss her off though?” Quincy asked, slowly chewing on his icy treat. Both of them stared back at a partially fuming Erska, strutting towards them.
“Umm…uhhhh” Bastian stuttered as she stood staunch, before them.
Quincy extended his hand. “How do you do? I’m Quincy..you must be..” He turned towards Bastian and whispered in his ear, “What did you say her name was, again?”
“Erska,” she said, grabbing Quincy into a firm handshake, “Looks like you have no trouble with regards to introducing new friends, isn’t it?” she said, glancing at Bastian.
“Yes, go ahead. I have all the time in the world..” she said, tapping her feet.
“I apologize for whatever happened..” he said.
“Maybe a bit more specific??” she pressed on.
“What? Did you find him with a lot of girls? Is that even a problem, eh?” Quincy commented in the midst.
Bastian’s eyes widened while disgust germinated in Erska. Another swat landed on Quincy’s mouth swiftly. “Please consider him retarded. I have no idea why I’m friends with him..”
“I’m not surprised…do continue whatever you were trying to say..” Erska prodded.
“I apologize for tricking you..I’m not a writer. If you felt like I have used you, I have not.”
Erska did not look impressed. “You mean other than trying to get a ticket to the Neptune Gala? You’ve shown stalker tendencies, trying to get as close as possible by being nice. You might be a compulsive liar for all that I know. Now, answer me.”
He breathed in, trying to be careful. “Yes, I accept I was fake. I mean, a fake writer. You caught me in the act. I was trying to show interest in whatever you liked. To get to know you – I’m not denying it.”
Viewing him with suspicion, she asked, “Not denying?”
“Yes, I just wanted to be friends with you,” Bastian stated.
“That is not how you try to be friends…” Erska said,
“Then? You mean like how you have friends..the girls I met the other day??”
“Well, yeaaaaa.” She rolled her eyes.
“Funny how you act all suspicious now! The whole lot of you gave off a foxy vibe!” he asked.
Erska’s fists clenched. “You-you..those are my childhood friends! How dare you!!”
“Sorry again, just telling you what I felt. I may have used a fake identity but I don’t think I ever tried to ruin you in any way. It was all done on a moment of spur..” he said.
“Spur?? Tell me that once more now!!” she was exasperated, gripping firmly his collar.
“I have nothing to say, Erska. Just genuine apologies. That’s all!!” he shot back.
“That’s all?? I-”
Looking closely, a new wave of memories emerged. Bastian defended her, he slapped that crazy dude. And shots. Loads of drinks, bottle after bottle. He was prodding her to get drunk.
She frowned. “You got me drunk?? For what??”
“You seemed sad. Like in the mood to pour it all out..that’s why…” he replied quickly.
“No, no. I remember clearly. Yes, there was a mishap with a crazy guy but you. You wanted me drunk. Why??” Yet there was no explanation as to why he had driven her home if getting her drunk was his way to take advantage of her.
“You remember? What else do you remember?” he asked, slightly doubtful. He crossed his fingers, hoping that her memory buries the part about him prying on her ‘desire’. Specifically, the last, cryptic one which seemed to have unravelled itself from the depths of her feelings. Wanting to be mute did not feel like Erska at all. Considering that she was pretty vocal about her feelings or else why would there be a firm hold on his collar?
“What else?? You mean there’s more??” Erska asked, confused as her grip against his collar tightened. She stared at him, searching for an impulse in the brain to provoke the undisturbed. Then, the unforeseen hit her.
Falling on some shoulder, a warm huggable figure, her fingers ran through long black strands, green eyes staring back at hers which were sharp, a tiny hit of a red hue….You’re eyes..eyes..pretty….they’re kind of pretty…pretty eyes
Loosening the grip, Bastian’s green eyes haunted her now. “Shit. what is this..” Erska whispered to herself.