At the moment, Usheniko was cleaning up her table and her bookshelf. This morning, when she saw the dust bunnies and lint all over the place, she shuddered. She wanted to get it over with, and if she were to leave it for a long time, then sneezes would infest the place, and it might deter some customers.
Humming to herself, she swept the woodwork with a feather duster.
She brushed the crystal ball and the maroon carpet, she then transitioned to the top of the bookshelf. The height was out of her reach.
“Goodness me, I can’t go on my toes without breaking my bones! I am old, haha!” Usheniko turned to her daughter, who was sitting near the drapes. Azukunika stared daggers at an album book. “Sweetie, can you clean this up for me please? I know you’re bored and all, so come here.”
Azukunika clicked the roof of her mouth. “I’m busy looking at this.”
“What? You have all the time in the world to do that. Now help me, or else I won’t give you those scrumptious muffins that you have been waiting for!”
The daughter shook her head, and crossed her legs. The sight of that tired Usheniko.
The woman grabbed a chair and stood on it, she managed to reach the top. “You know Azukunika, you have been rather meek lately. Is there something the matter? Is it about your time in prison? I know that it’s a brutal place to be, since it is situated in an isolated place and all. I heard that there is a lot of gang members and convicted murderers there. I am scared that you can’t even handle them! But you can tell me, right?”
“No thanks,” Azukunika said, she glared the moment she turned a page in the book. “I don’t need you to intrude.”
“Aww shucks, don’t be like that.” Usheniko wiped the last of the dust on the bookshelf. As the dust bunnies disappeared, the woman broke into sweat and sighed. Bringing herself down and hopping to the kitchen area, she fixed up some muffins. She placed them on a tray and brought them to Azukunika. The latter shooed her hands.
“I am not hungry right now,” the daughter said.
Usheniko dropped her jaws. “Eh?! You haven’t ate in a while! Here, just eat it all!”
“With those eye-like almonds? No thanks.”
“Ouch!” Usheniko clutched her chest. “My heart hurts, now I am dying from the lack of interest not just from the girls, but from you too! Why must it be this way?”
Azukunika scoffed. She stood up and latched her hands onto the drapes. Looking outside, the breeze flushed her face. While that happened, Usheniko looked at the photo album, and her heart gushed.
She had made it a long time ago, with adorable pictures of herself and her daughter. She took pictures almost everyday, to the point where the album was bigger than the crystal ball. Adding to that, such pictures occurred at the time where the villagers discovered sepia-colored cameras somewhere in the frontiers; however, all cameras suddenly died from technical difficulties. They remained unknown to everybody today.
“Wow, I remember this time, when you were seven! You used to play in the mud a lot, and one day, you dirtied your doll and cried. I couldn’t clean it up, much to your frustration. Although I bought you a new one, you didn’t like it because the cottons were so hard and rough! And look at this, when you graduated high school in robes! You were so stunning, and you still are!”
Usheniko flipped through the book, and along the way, she saw scratch marks. It boggled her mind. “I wonder who dared to do this. At least they are minor.” She brushed it off, and continued perusing. Her bosom thrilled and memories flooded her mind, she felt nostalgic to see them all. It was better for her as Azukunika was here – maybe some time later, she could share the experiences with her.
Azukunika looked at her nails and chuckled to herself. Her eyes slowly burned into flames. Without informing Usheniko, she walked out of the tent. Her crunching footsteps gave herself away.
“Hey! Where are you going?” Usheniko grabbed her daughter’s arms. “I don’t mean to bother you, but please. Don’t be so bashful my dear.”
“I don’t need to.”
“Come on! Don’t be so cold towards me! I bet the prison is becoming a bad influence on you, right? I hope you get better from whatever you are dealing with! And come back here, I haven’t done talking to you yet!”
Shrugging, the daughter turned around and faced Usheniko. There was something in her expression that rattled the woman for a bit. She couldn’t tell quite what it was. Perhaps that she had experienced an incident among her inmates. But it didn’t add much to Azukunika’s current demeanor, being so peculiar and apathetic, more than Usheniko would have expected.
“…I’m going to the temple. I need to handle important stuff for the High Order.”
“Eh?” Usheniko tilted her head. “Now you are going there? You should have done so when I was attending Sunday service! Also, it couldn’t be that the reason you came back is to work for them.”
“I have to. They were the one who summoned me here in the first place.”
“That’s odd. What are they doing with the likes of you-”
All the sudden, Azukunika growled, her eyes welled in tears.
Usheniko came up to the young girl and hugged her, but the latter pushed her away.
“Don’t cry my dear,” Usheniko said. “You can tell me what’s wrong.”
“I am not crying.” Azukunika turned away, and hissed. She then departed from Usheniko. Seeing her walking further to the intersection between the food stand area and the markets, Usheniko sulked. She could barely believe that such a girl like her would act like this nowadays. She wanted to ask, but it might cause a dispute. By the seconds, the state of her daughter worried her as much as it confused her.
“Oh well. She’s twenty-four now, so she knows what to do in her time. I can’t stop her. I am getting old, if one would call forty-five an old age.” Usheniko walked back to the kitchen and heated the stove. “I got to get back to this. Neha needs her lunch, and I must prep it for her! So today I will make a delectable, all-delicious fried rice with deep-fried fish!”
Thus she started cooking. While she gathered the ingredients from the pantry and the boxes, she held her smile. The days when she first met Neha and Sachen, it couldn’t get any funnier. She let out a laugh.
Usheniko had stayed with her family in the mansion, the place that once occupied the tent she was residing in now. She would roam around the markets and eat lavish food from the restaurants, and had enough money to do this every week, since her family was wealthy in the occult and consulting business. It was one day, exactly a year ago, that after she exited from a noodle joint, she found a pair of kids playing around near the mansion. Apparently, it was Sachen that got her head stuck in a cage full of sparrows. Neha called for help, but some people either dismissed it as a theater performance or they didn’t want to help at all.
The sparrows pecked Sachen’s nose and cheeks, so much so that it looked like the rascal had chickenpox. Immediately, Usheniko pulled Sachen’s head out of the cage, and it left the latter in aches and sores.
Neha thanked the woman for helping, and offered to give some money as compensation. With a smirk, Usheniko pointed to the house where she lived, and the two girls were in awe. In return for her help, Usheniko wanted them to come to a psychic session, where she could consult them of their fortunes for the rest of the year.
In the first session, Usheniko predicted that Neha would find a pair of gold coins in her pockets. For Sachen, she would see bird dropping on her windows. Both of them came true. It got the juveniles in laughter and shudders at the same time. They thought Usheniko was a fluke. So they attended a session again and again, only to discover that all their fortunes were true. However, they did not know this: Usheniko would describe the most mundane, the most simplest of everyday occurrences.
She never resorted to making fortunes that were out of this world. Still, Usheniko managed to get acquainted with them, and over time, they were enthusiastic in hearing all of the woman’s words, even when they were suspicious about some of her results. Then with the development of trust and love, they grew to Usheniko as her friends. She cherished those times with them, and hopefully, she would stay by their sides forever.
After Usheniko was done making the food, she closed it in a container and left it by the counter. Her muscles throbbing, she grabbed the photo album and dropped her body onto a cot that was next to her bookshelf. She wondered if Azukunika was going to come back early; as of now, she had been coming home in the dead of night while Usheniko slept.
When Usheniko replayed her first encounter with Neha and Sachen, she giggled.
“That’s where I made their nicknames, little sparrows.” Usheniko then napped. She let out drool from her mouth.