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Passing Afternoon by meghna
Chapter 1 : { AN INDULGENCE }
 
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Passing Afternoon

Loneliness was not a foreign concept to Pippa Reginald. She found herself most at peace when she was by herself, hobbling around and going about her own business, nothing but the sound of her silence pricking her ears every now and then. Her routine was usual: wake, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat. She liked taking long walks in and around the city during the quieter days, when others were at home, relishing the day off. Pippa rarely saw much difference in work days and weekends, for as a playwright, she was always working. There was always a story to be told, pages to be filled with ideas. Time was nearly non-existent, except to tell her when the day was done and when the dawn meant she had to carry on.

That was all she did. She simply carried on with life.

And then there was Le Louvre, the outcome of her biggest budget ever. The first week was quiet but fruitful – the usual theatre junkies swimming in and out, nodding their heads and clapping at the right times, almost as if it were a ritual for them. But the reviews were impressive. So impressive that the most influential wizarding family in London wanted to watch Pippa’s play.

The Potters, of course.

Pippa did not care much for celebrities or people who were not from the drama network. They rarely understood the true intricacies of a theatrical performance. But the Potters watching Le Louvre meant good press. Good press meant higher viewership. Higher viewership meant Pippa could finally afford a washing machine.

So there she was, watching Sebastian and Rachel on stage take the role of Amee and Raoul from her imagination, momentarily entrapped in their performance. His intonation was a bit off-sounding to Pippa, who had imagined Raoul saying he loved Amee very differently in her head. But before she could worry about it, someone cleared their throat behind her.

“Pippa Reginald?”

It was James Potter, the oldest son of The Boy Who Lived. Pippa nodded and wondered what he was doing in the wings beside her, when he ought to have been in his seat. He was missing out on the best scene she had ever written.

“Yes?”

“The play’s yours, isn’t it? I just – gosh, I just wanted to say that I really love it. This is the second time I’ve been here this week and I’m not much of a drama person. But this one just took my breath away.”

“Oh,” never one to come up with an adequate response to a compliment, Pippa was. “Well, thank you. That’s a lovely thing to say.”

Perhaps the boy expected more, for he didn’t say anything for a few seconds, till he realized Pippa was finished.

“Right. Well. Right.”

“Thank you for coming. It means a lot,” she lied. It did not matter if the star child was here or not. Pippa had made a life for herself despite the few celebrity appearances at her shows.

“My pleasure,” he said with a broad smile, pushing his hands into his trouser pockets, letting the thumbs poke out. “Have you been to the Louvre, then?”

“No, but I’ve always wanted to. Have you?” she could not understand why she was still engaged in a conversation with the bloke.

“Yeah – family vacation a few years back. It was really beautiful,” said James, peeping through the wings at the actors on stage. “You should go, if you have the time.”

“Oh, I have time. What I don’t have is the money,” the girl said with a sharp, snide laugh. Pippa was not poor. She just couldn’t afford a trip to the bloody Louvre.

The Potter looked uncomfortable at this.

“I’m sure it’ll happen. Someday,” their eyes locked for a moment, and Pippa heard the words drag out of his mouth. In that one moment, something about him had made her return his gaze. Hair? Better than hers. Eyes? A muddy brown, a little green, maybe grey. It was too dark to tell. Smile? Mildly infectious. Just your average bloke. But why were her hands sweating?

By the time the week had progressed, James Potter was forgotten. Or so Pippa liked to tell herself. But then there was that envelope in the mail, the one smelling of an expensive cologne and macaroons. And then there was the most outrageous thing Pippa ever saw in her life.

Dear Pippa

A small indulgence. Consider it an award for your hard work and mind-blowing talents.

James

At first, Pippa was offended. She did not need charity from some bloke who had his pockets stuffed with galleons. But then she pulled out the smooth parchment from inside and examined what was a two-way ticket to France, and she let her greed get the better of her. So what if he was rich and wanted to give her gifts? He said so himself – it was for her hard work and mind-blowing talents. She did work bloody hard. And she was talented, if only in the slightest. Didn’t she deserve a small indulgence?

So Pippa went to France. And when she returned, she had to find James Potter and thank him, naturally.

Paris had changed Pippa.

Now she wanted all those things she had been happy without – adventure, excitement, romance. It was a slippery slope, that had begun with her strange encounter with the star child, in the wings of her greatest success.

She lost track of time soon after that. An utterance of coffee, a meeting under a grim London sky. Rain, hail, more rain. She was no longer making long walks around the city by herself, and silence had become a thing of the past. He was always there. Talking to her, laughing with her, sighing at her, touching her, breathing her, loving her. She was so consumed by him, his eyes, his hands, their love.

Now, the moments spent alone seemed to build-up to the moments she was with him. He was never truly gone – she would endlessly replay the days spent with him like a broken record. She didn’t even have to close her eyes or stop working or fall asleep.

But the sadist who declared that all good things ought to come to an end was right after all.

Despite all her forgetfulness, Pippa could not seem to forget that September afternoon. Half asleep on her couch the hail was falling like bricks on her roof. And then the bell had gone and she knew it was him. It was never anybody else.

“Pippa, we – I have to tell you something.”

His face was a shadow of itself. His eyes never met hers. Except when he had to tell her that –

“I’ve met somebody else.”

It was simple enough. James Potter was highly desirable, and he had simply gone out and met some other ladies, one of whom had caught his eyes. Naturally, in order to go forth with his new relationship, he had to break off his previous one.

But it wasn’t that simple to Pippa, who felt as if he had tied a rock to her heart and thrown it off a building. All balance was lost. It was as if gravity had released her emotions, and she was stuck in a soup of tears, betrayal and disbelief.

And then that one thing that was so fundamental to Pippa, she could no longer do. She simply could not carry on.

So there she was, sitting on her couch a few months later, her heart wounded, guarded and bitter. But still beating. Albert Webber had phoned. They wanted to take Le Louvre to Amsterdam, Germany, and then France. Critics had called it one of the best romance dramas of the year. The Fudges, Cornwalls, Lovegoods, Longbottoms, and Weasleys had all been to see it – some of them multiple times. They had done even more shows in Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Bath. Every day, day after day, one by one, people came, watched, clapped, every seat full for weeks together, till they moved to the next venue.

And finally, it ended, as she knew it would. It was a relief that the last thing that reminded her of him (for all the others were burnt, thrown away or crushed into pieces), and also the very reason she had met him, had met its end. She could hardly stand it a moment longer.

The curtain came down and Pippa was alone again. But it was no longer quiet.

The washing machine whirred mechanically from the kitchen.


 


A/N: Before you ask – I don’t know. I have four story ideas penned down but I just opened my laptop after eternity and thought “Hey, let’s write an angsty fic!”. I know that it isn’t really angst and I’m still not quite sure what point I was trying to get across here but I’m just happy I managed to get some writing done because oh I am so out of touch and I haven’t written anything in forever and I don’t want to just stop. So I’m just throwing this out here.

Story title is from Passing Afternoon, by Iron and Wine, and the theme/mood is mainly inspired from the same song.

Meghna x




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