“Hey Andrew,” Jeremy began. “You know, when you said you had exams to study for, I thought you meant you were going to study for them after our little outing.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. Sarvanez knew that they were friends, or at least, they knew each other already. It was she and Esperanza who were new to the group.
“One of the people here,” said Andrew, as he opened the door to the apartment building, “could give us a clue as to what happened to the Indian royal’s beau.”
“I’m not a royal,” Sarvanez said, straightening her posture. “Just wealthy.”
“My apologies then. The guy lives on another floor.”
Sarvanez looked around. There were tall buildings everywhere, and in the night, it almost looked creepy. Like her, Esperanza had looked around in wonder too, even though she lived in New York. “Place reminds me so much of Mexico City.”
“Is that where you’re from?” Sarvanez had asked her.
“That’s where my family’s from. I went there years ago. There wasn’t so much work to do then,” Esperanza had explained. “Now, life is just going from the crowded apartments to the factories and back.”
Sarvanez had felt sorry for her. She couldn’t imagine a life like that-wealth was her entire life. She had been raised in a big house with workers. Peyman was wealthy too. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to come to America as an esteemed visitor.
The building Andrew had taken them to was, according to the little conversation between Jeremy and Andrew, Andrew’s apartment building. Not surprising, considering Columbia University was only a block or two away.
The apartment hallway was nice enough, but a far cry from the life Sarvanez was used to, including the fine hotel she and her uncle were staying at. Andrew pointed at a door, as they walked past.
“And that one is mine. The one we’re heading to is just up the stairs.”
As they hiked to the second floor, Jeremy gave a small glance back at Sarvanez. “So, this guy is your beau, huh?”
Sarvanez gave a tight smile. In the past hour, she had learned that beau was the word they used here. “yeah. I mean, I’m supposed to marry him.”
And how happy Sarvanez had been. For the vast majority of her life, she had been a loner, not really mixing with other people at gatherings. Peyman had changed all that. Sure, Sarvanez still didn’t socialize too much, but she had done so much with him. Laughed with him, snuck out of her house to talk to him. She still remembered his handsome features in the dark, when she would spend time with him. The sparkle in his eye. The playful smile.
“I mean no offense, but…” Jeremy started. Sarvanez looked at him, and noticed that Andrew and Esperanza had tagged ahead on the stairs, having a small conversation of their own. Andrew and Esperanza hadn’t known each other, but had seemed to hit it off.
“What happens if you don’t find him?” Jeremy said.
Sarvanez shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m going back home in a couple of weeks. And he wants me to look for him.”
Jeremy stopped on the stairs. “Wait what? You didn’t tell us that.”
Sarvanez nodded. “He left a note behind in my things. That if he isn’t back, something went wrong. I’m not too sure why he came to America anyway. Guess he just wanted to visit.”
Sarvanez let out a bitter laugh.
“Clearly not,” Jeremy said. “Since he left you that note.”
“Here we are!” Andrew said. “This door right over here.” He gave it a knock.
The door opened, and standing there, was a pale boy with blond hair. He surveyed them for a few seconds, and then he looked at Andrew. “Andrew? I guess you’re not here to study together?”
Andrew laughed. “maybe later. There are my…um, my friends. One of them is visiting, and she needs to see you.”
Sarvanez stepped forward, feeling the boy’s eyes on her. They seemed to linger a little too much. Almost like he was staring at her.
“I’m Carson Kensington.” The boy finally said with a polite smile. “And you are….?”
“There isn’t too much space, but please come inside,” Carson said, beckoning them all in.
After all five of them have been seated, Carson leaned in, looking interested but puzzled. “it’s not every day you see a crew like this in this flat! What brings you all here?”
“You’re the heir to the Kensington company, my man,” Andrew said with an easy smile. “My friend’s beau has gone missing, and one of the last places he visited was the Kensington office.”
Carson frowned. “I don’t know all the happenings of that office. And you have a beau?” he asked with a look at Sarvanez. ‘Whatever happened to him?”
Sarvanez brushed a strand of her hair behind her ear. Curls had been escaping from her ponytail the entire time. “I don’t know. But I have a list of all the places he went too, because he left it behind. One of them was the Kensington main office in Manhattan.”
“What’s his name?”
Carson shook his head. “I don’t recognize that name. Then again, I haven’t really been to the offices in a bit. Studies kept me away.” He gave a small chuckle.” What does he look like?”
“Tall, but not as tall as Andrew. Light brown skin, brown eyes. He’s…he’s from India, too.”
“Anything about that?” Jeremy asked. “An Indian gentleman?”
“An Indian gentleman…” Carson said, furrowing his brow. “Now that you mention that, my uncle did say something about an Indian gentleman…I think.”
“Your uncle?” Esperanza piped up. “Is that the Thaddeus Kensington, the one who runs that huge building right in the heart of Manhattan?”
“The one and only,” Carson said. “he sends me letters and meets with me to inform me about the state of the company, and the stuff I must do and on and on…”
“Do you still have the letter?” Sarvanez asked. Carson seemed to be more of the talkative sort. And he kept on looking at her, even when the others were talking to him.
“I keep them all at my desk in the other room,” Carson said, a little deflated at Sarvanez cutting him off. “Let me take a look for you.”
Two hours later, only Jeremy, Esperanza, Sarvanez, and Carson remained in the little flat.
Andrew had gotten super antsy about exams and had gone down to his own apartment. Jeremy had sighed as he had, muttering about how Andrew always studied at the last minute.
“But what does ‘business’ mean?” Sarvanez asked, inspecting the letter for the hundredth time. “What business could Peyman possibly have had here?”
Jeremy looked pointedly at Sarvanez. “You sure Peyman didn’t tell you anything about why he was coming here? Just visiting?”
Sarvanez nodded. “Just visiting. That’s what he said. Then again, that’s what my uncle said too. Maybe he’s here for something else too. He didn’t even approve of Peyman, to begin with. He wouldn’t help me look for him.”
“My uncle isn’t the most understanding either,” Carson said with a sympathetic smile. Despite her annoyance at him, Sarvanez smiled back.
Carson himself hadn’t really commented on the letter or what it could mean. It had really just been Sarvanez, Esperanza, and Jeremy talking about what could have happened. Carson had only piped up with something irrelevant every now and then. And he had gotten closer to Sarvanez when she had surveyed the letter.
So close they were almost touching. Sure Carson was attractive, but Sarvanez wanted to remind him that she was an engaged woman. She was only interested in Peyman in that sense. Plus, Peyman was more attractive anyway.
“He better not have gotten himself in trouble,” Sarvanez said. “I love Peyman, but he does stupid things sometimes.”
Sarvanez could feel Carson’s look drop away from her for an instant. But then he inched near her again.
“Maybe we should actually go and talk to Thaddeus Kensington,” Esperanza suggested. “Carson can take us there.”
“I don’t know; he’s a busy guy…” Carson said.
“I mean, someone’s missing ,” Jeremy said. “I feel like that’s pretty important.”
Even though Sarvanez knew that Jeremy was only in it for the reward money, she was grateful for the support.
“What other places, did your um, beau, go to?” Carson asked Sarvanez in a soft voice.
“The Kensington main office, one of the restaurants, I think one of the factories too…”
“Thaddeus Kensington is a good start,” Jeremy interrupted. “At least, I think so. Don’t you agree, Sarvanez?”
“I prefer so,” Sarvanez said.
“I guess we can try tomorrow morning or the day after,” Carson said. He looked at Sarvanez for what felt like the billionth time. “We don’t all have to go. It can just be you and me.”
“We’re all in it together,” Jeremy said, almost fiercely. “We should all go.”
Carson looked taken aback by the tone of Jeremy’s voice. “Um, okay. I guess.”
“Thank you,” Sarvanez said.
Carson smiled at her. Warmly. A little too warmly. “Of course. Let me put these letters away.”
After Carson left, Sarvanez looked at Jeremy in surprise. “You sure seem determined to come with us.”
Jeremy shrugged then gave a chuckle. “Pretty obvious that Carson here just wants your attention.”
“Too obvious,” Esperanza said with a giggle.
“And anyway,” Jeremy continued. “We’re all doing it together. I need that reward money.”